Editor, The News:
I am ashamed of what is happening in the community I have called home for these past 39 years.
I’ve had a chance over that long residency to get to know my fellow Mapleridgeans as welcoming, including, supportive and compassionate.
It seems all of that is gone, all decency disappeared, compassion out the window, fear moved in, bigotry winning out.
How many letters these last few weeks started with, ‘I have nothing against the homeless. … ‘ only to end with a litany of reasons of why they just can’t stay in our neighbourhood, in our community.
Yes, you do have something against the homeless, the downtrodden, misfortuned, the mentally ill and drug addicts. To insist otherwise is self-delusional.
Short of scooping up all these unwanted people and sending them far out of sight, nothing will do for many of you. No place anywhere even remotely close to our neighbourhoods will ever be right.
These people out there without a place to stay, with no hope, no dignity, shunned, sick, they are your daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers. Many were born into welcoming, loving arms, but plenty had none of that. Some strayed, some fell, some were pushed out; many never knew a kind word. Some made bad decisions, some had bad luck, some gave up trying to cope, and others numb their pain with whatever they can.
I have no illusions about the many problems that come with congregations of the downtrodden, homeless, mentally ill and drug addicts. The vitriol displayed by so-called decent, upright, hard-working citizens, though, matches in no way the actual problems faced and seems so much more offending than an unkempt man asking for spare change.
Fear fuelled by rumour and misinformation clouds perception of reality, fair judgement and assessment of actual danger and problems.
Fear of losing out on potential business, fear of having even a fraction less in the face of shunned, homeless, hungry people appears obscene at best.
Fear doesn’t give a fighting chance to finding a creative, satisfying solution that could benefit all. Instead of wasting precious time, resources and energy by protesting, waving placards, signing detrimental petitions and spreading unfounded panic, much more is gained by working together with all stakeholders – yes, including the homeless and their representatives.
Learn from the cities and communities that were successful, like Medicin Hat in Alberta. Petition our council to bring in the experts from that town to help us set up a plan.
Say ‘yes’ to the shelter where it is proposed and ask how we can help to make it successful.
State what you need to keep you business safely and successfully running and offer your sincere contribution. Talk about what you need to have in place to keep enjoying your home and know your children are safe.
Be an example to your customers, display much needed citizenship. Show how you help the shelter and its inhabitant and demonstrate that living peacefully in close proximity is possible.
Share the surplus food in your restaurant. Why not help set up a teaching kitchen at the shelter?
Show as much compassion to human beings as you do to the animals you heal and find ways to keep your narcotics safely locked in instead of people out in the gutter.
Don’t pay attention to the threats of customers leaving – history shows this is mainly an empty promise and business will soon resume at capacity.
Teach your children citizenship and problem solving skills.
Used needles cannot be accepted near family homes, but there are a number of stakeholders to work with to get at this problem. Teach your children empathy and compassion. Talk about the many reasons a person can become homeless, explore with them how hard it is got get out of it. Show them how to help – food to the food bank, a blanket to the shelter. And learn about the many programs a shelter offers, from emergency beds to transitional housing, from teaching life skills to connecting clients to the appropriate support services.
I lost a cousin to drugs and zero tolerance approach.
Let’s make sure we don’t lose more cousins. Let’s give them hope, stability and decency right in our midst.