Lost souls will still wander

Maple Ridge is trying to its best for the homeless but much remains to be done

Editor, The News:

Re: Lost souls wander our streets (Letters, Jan. 25).

I was thrilled to read Sandy Macdougall’s honest and moving letter, in which he describes feelings of compassion, concern and helplessness at the sight of a homeless man sitting outside MacDonald’s and a woman working the streets on a cold winter morning.

I am the executive director of Alouette Home Start Society, an organization that grew out a community-driven need to respond to the suffering of the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.

I could tell you about the brokenness of a woman I picked up from the psychiatric ward with no place to go; the loneliness and depression burning from inside of her; the tears she cried in the courtroom because of the crime she continues to commit; the shame she is carrying and how badly she misses her children who are now in custody.

I could tell you about the men and women I meet every day; addicted to hard drugs like cocaine, heroin and crystal meth; living on the streets, desperate for money for their next fix. I could tell you about the anger and frustration they feel as doors are constantly slammed in their faces.

I could tell you about the woman I drove to treatment; the same woman who has gone to the same treatment center over and over again; the conversations we have; how she wants to run far away from drugs and never use them again, how she wants her children back, how the only reason she works the streets is to feel the arms of someone around her; and how she struggles with not knowing any other way to live life when her own father molested her.

When you sit down and listen to them share their stories, you will find they have been on some long, hard journeys. Somewhere along the line they forget that they were ever loved, that their existence truly matters.

Mr. Macdougall writes: “I have no idea or suggestions on how to assuage my guilt or how to lessen the suffering of these lost souls, but I feel compelled to do something. There must be an answer.”

Part of the answer is in the very letter he writes. It’s important to see. It’s important to recognize that something needs to be done.

I wish to commend this community and recognize that there are many people working together to try to make a difference in the lives of the men, women and youth who live homeless in our neighbourhoods.

Our organization is fortunate to have the support of the municipality, which allows us the use of two rent-free houses to provide shelter and transitional housing for homeless youth. The municipality also donated the land for our supportive housing development. Many individuals and groups provide homemade goodies, handmade quilts, backpacks, food hampers, Christmas gifts, volunteer labour and services and the always-welcome donation cheques.

But the lost souls still wander our streets. There’s a lot more that needs to be done. Let’s not look away.

Stephanie Ediger, executive director

Alouette Home Start Society