By Mike Archer. On October 16, 2014. James Breckenridge, an employee at the Abbotsford branch of the Salvation Army, reported on Abbotsford Today, that Vancouver Costal Health had an employee take Squamish senior Barbara Lowery, a frail, elderly woman from Squamish and drive her into the Fraser Health region and dump her in Abbotsford – a city she has no knowledge of or connection to – not at a Fraser Health facility, but at the emergency shelter at the Salvation Army.

On October 20, Glenda Luymes of the Province newspaper reported the incident after meeting with Lowery, and revealed that, “While it is not standard procedure for the health authority to transfer someone to another health authority (Abbotsford is in the Fraser Health region), there had been communication with Salvation Army staff and the senior was expected at the shelter.”

After the story hit the Province, Breckenridge was put on administrative leave and on Friday, Abbotsford Today learned the Salvation Army had fired him.

“I got fired by the Army because they felt my actions in writing about Barb Lowery violated their policy on client confidentiality and even though I had spoken to Ms. Lowery about writing about her and what happened to her I had not gotten her signed written consent. I was aware of the policy, had prior warnings and discussion about my writing and knew there was a risk of termination,” Breckinridge told Today.

“Having spoken to Ms. Lowery and, given the nature of what had happened, I felt it needed to be written about in order to provide incentive for Vancouver Coastal Health to do its best for Ms. Lowery and to stop this before it became a regular and accepted practice,” he says.

Breckenridge who is a well-known columnist and activist for the homeless, and is running for a council seat in the November 15 municipal election, says he knew there was a risk of termination and accepted it.

“One of the effects dealing with mental illness has had is an awareness of choosing how you behave when faced with a choice of the risk of your job – homelessness – versus standing up to oppose the negative consequences the province’s budget realities are having on mental health, health care, BC Housing, Income Assistance, other social ministries – indeed all ministries as they all suffer budget cuts,” he says.

Breckenridge says he doesn’t blame the Salvation Army for bringing the fact he is now facing the very real possibility of, once again, being homeless. He says he is more concerned that mental health and healthcare are suffering.
“Service providers like the Salvation Army are often caught between a rock and a hard place and are, in effect forced into situations not of their own making and which they would never allow or create on their own,” he says.

“Inflation causes the decreases in resources – in effect budget cuts – that occur because spending does not … cannot … keep up with what it would cost to provide the same basket of services this year as were provided last year.

“The problem is not that the government is not pouring money into healthcare – it can’t – but that the fact that the budget increases made mean that cuts to healthcare, mental health and other services are occurring and it is ignored so the cuts are willy-nilly and thus have pronounced negative consequences, says Breckenridge, adding, “During my journey to mental wellness one of the choices I made was actually be a person who is willing to stand up to be counted – who is dedicated to nonconformity and creative maladjustment. “

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