Letters: Work with council, minister

There is no doubt that the Sally Ann provides many valuable services.

Editor, The News:

Re: Province committed to Sally Ann (The News, Jan. 6).

As a long-time admirer and supporter of the Salvation Army, it is difficult for me to be critical of the local branch of the organization.

However, over the last 10 years, you could not help but see the impact of homelessness in our community and the ineffectiveness of the local Sally Ann in finding solutions.

There is no doubt that the Sally Ann provides many valuable services, but there is also no doubt that over the last decade, when it was the primary service provider in the community, the homeless situation got progressively worse and had gotten to the point where it was becoming a crisis and a divisive issue within the community.

Elected into this situation, the new council made homelessness its first priority. I thought this was a courageous decision given the complexity of the issue that, currently, has no certain fixes and its political and emotional volatility.

Anyone who has been monitoring the issue can see the city has, over a relatively short period of time, been effective in stabilizing and improving the situation.

There are significant improvements in the downtown core, as well, as with homeless encampments.

In his letter, encouraging the city and Sally Ann to work together, Geeske De Boer Poker, comments that in the street level ministry he is involved in, “the amount of people who come in is down a lot.”

My understanding is the city, as it searches for solutions, has also worked with service providers to meet mandated obligations, to improve effectiveness in providing assistance and to increase resource accountability.

It is also my understanding that the City of Abbotsford is going to be implementing a temporary shelter program similar to the one established here, a significant change from a few years ago, when the city dumped manure on homeless encampments.

It is encouraging to read minister Rich Coleman’s letter to the paper. The municipal government, as the level of government closest to the problem’s impact, is well placed to work towards cost effective and long-term solutions and is in a position to work with policing, addiction and mental health services and other levels of government and service providers.

Vancouver’s community court is an example of the new thinking coming out of this approach.

Change would represent a significant shift in social norms and it is a difficult and evolving process.

The desire for long-term and cost-effective solutions is itself an asset and I would encourage the minister to work with the new council’s enthusiasm, as he referred to it, for effective solutions to this issue filled with hidden costs and human tragedy.

Peter Adhearne

Maple Ridge