Opinion: One-size-fits-all thinking won’t help homeless

‘Maple Ridge deserves better.’

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson. (John Lehmann/Contributed)

With nearly 60,000 people moving to British Columbia every year, finding a place to live in the Lower Mainland is getting harder. While homelessness has long been considered a downtown Vancouver issue, communities like Maple Ridge are now seeing more people than ever without a home at all.

Homelessness is a serious problem in British Columbia. Too many people now find themselves on the streets and in many cases, struggling with mental health and addictions issues.

This is not something that can be solved overnight, but there are solutions that actually work to provide support for those who need it the most.

I worked as a family doctor, and I know that homeless people with addictions require access to health care, treatment and recovery options as part of their housing needs. We cannot write people off by giving in to “one-size-fits-all” thinking because it won’t work.

We have to help people regain their lives, and without proper health care and counselling, we have no chance of tackling this crisis effectively in Maple Ridge.

I’ve met repeatedly with local officials and community leaders in Maple Ridge and it is very apparent that real solutions are possible. If people who live near the Burnett Street site are voicing concerns for their neighbourhood, why isn’t the government listening to them?

There are innovative and compassionate solutions coming from the community and these need to be respected. Housing alone is not going to solve the issues in Maple Ridge – there needs to be more mental health and community outreach available 24 hours a day.

There needs to be a guarantee of regular visits from doctors and nurses. Instead, we have a top-down plan from the provincial government forcing temporary housing in the wrong location.

Solutions are being offered by local leaders and community members in Maple Ridge, because we all have to work together to address homelessness and the mental health issues that go with it. After all, these issues impact British Columbians regardless of income level or housing situation.

Ignoring neighbourhood concerns, dismissing advice and suggestions from local representatives, and disregarding the real need for recovery and treatment options for people who truly need our help is not helping. It is certainly not leadership.

We need a provincial government that values local knowledge and public engagement. Maple Ridge deserves better.

– Andrew Wilkinson is B.C. Liberal Party leader and MLA, Vancouver-Quilchena

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