Try opening your eyes and your heart, Sandy

You don’t want them in your neighborhood, so who’s neighborhood should we put them in?

Editor, The News:

Re: What have bleeding hearts done to help? (Letters, Dec. 5).

Sandy Macdougall asks if his great grandchildren should have to witness what he calls the “undesirable element,” when they come to visit him.

He is referring to clients of the Salvation Army’s Caring Place. Well, nobody should have to witness poverty, pain, suffering, war, famine, violence, prejudice, ignorance or abuse. But the sad reality is, they do.

We live in a far-from-perfect world, and with that comes many things that no one should have to witness, much less endure.

Labelling people is not going to help change anything.

Calling these people “undesirable” is a narrow way of thinking.

Every person has a name, and everyone deserves a warm, safe and dry place to sleep.

Everyone deserves a hot, nutritious meal in their stomachs.

Everyone deserves to get help when they need and ask for it.

They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, just like everybody else.

There are good and bad people in every sect of humanity. The courts are full of cases where upper, middle and lower income people are charged and punished for crimes. Just because a person is homeless doesn’t mean they are bad people or criminals, and not all low-income or homeless people “defecate” in people’s yards or urinate in public.

You don’t want them in your neighborhood , so who’s neighborhood should we put them in?

Perhaps we should re-locate them to a designated area, corral and brand them so they can’t mingle or associate with the ‘desirable people,’ or perhaps we should hire ‘death squads’ to exterminate the street people, as they do in Brazil, to control children, so the country  won’t lose tourism dollars.

There are many people who use the services and resources of the Caring Place. One fellow who worked at a high-paying industrial job, making $85,000 a year. He suffered a head injury that prevented him from doing the work he had done for 26 years. Now, because he eats there, should he be put into the ‘undesirable’ category ?

The majority of people who depend on the Caring Place, are victims of the economic downslide. They have lost jobs, savings, homes, families and relationships, and for many, hope.

As a result, many have developed addiction issues as a way of dealing with it. There are those who have suffered abuse, whether physical, sexual, mental or emotional, for a large portion of their lives.

Does that make them ‘undesirable?’

What about those born with mental health issues? They didn’t choose to have these diseases, afflictions or conditions. Should they be chastised as well?

Government budget cuts have forced many of them into a world they are not able or equipped to understand or live as a functioning individual.

The answer is not to categorize or segregate them. It’s not making them out to be social monsters or treat them like parasites or viruses. Instead we need to push for programs and resources to help deal with these issues and support these individuals. We need more affordable housing, funding for mental health and addiction support and recovery programs, for employment, life and job skills training.

And, most of all, compassion and understanding for our fellow human beings.

We tend to fear what we don’t understand. Fear turns to anger and hate. It’s time to stop being afraid and instead, through education and community support, we can take much larger steps towards ending homelessness, poverty and human suffering.

I truly hope your great-grandchildren never become down on their luck and have to use these kinds of services to eat or get help to get back on their feet again. Would you want them turned away or have to encounter small-minded and self-righteous people who ridicule and humiliate them? Instead of making such harsh judgements, try opening your eyes and your heart.

R. Murphy

Maple Ridge