By James Breckenridge. Abbotsford Mayor Banman: “I don’t normally comment on these things, but the John Howard Society runs a tight ship and makes sure rules are followed. My guess is there will not be any problems. Studies I have looked at say inmates do much better in homes like these than leaving them to fend for themselves. As a result the public is safer, and just as important the inmates have a support group, find jobs and return to jail far less often.”
Reading Mayor Banman’s comments on the halfway house had a paraphrasing of Mark Twain coming to mind: “Reader, suppose you were an idiot; and suppose you were the mayor of Abbotsford; but I repeat myself”.
The reality of halfway houses:
Vernon’s Mayor Sean Harvey said that the community has tolerated Howard House in its midst long enough. Three parolees at the halfway house operated by the John Howard Society have been accused of murder in the past eight years in Vernon.
In the third incident, Eric Norman Fish was charged with the first-degree murder of 75 year old Bill Abramenko during a home invasion.
In Vancouver high risk sex offender Mervin Walkus walked away from his halfway house. Police advised that Mervin was a high risk to re-offend. Also going missing from halfway houses in Vancouver were high risk sex offenders Owen Joe and James Patrick Benson.
In Kelowna Phillip Lyons, 36 walked away from a halfway house. His criminal record included “attempt robbery, arson for fraudulent purposes, attempt escape, theft, fail to comply, possession of property obtained by crime, utter forged document, fail to appear, fraud, possession of break in instrument, driving while impaired, utter threats and possession of a scheduled substance.”
Mayor Banman is fine with a halfway house in downtown Abbotsford, but housing for Abbotsford’s homeless? Not in downtown Abbotsford!
Moreover, how is it Mayor Banman can read studies “Studies I have looked at…” about halfway houses but cannot be bothered to read studies on Housing First as an approach to ending homelessness?
In light of the reality of halfway houses, Mayor Banman’s statements concerning halfway houses and about housing for the homeless show a degree of ignorance and prejudices that is appalling and totally unacceptable in a mayor or city councillors.
For the Record:
I support the John Howard Society’s opening of a halfway house and their chosen location.
It would be hypocritical to advocate the need for effective support for those dealing with mental illness, substance use and homelessness – and deny the need for the same effective support to prisoners seeking to find wellness and life.
It would be easy to argue this is not the ‘right location’ for a halfway house, but the reality is that for a halfway house – or homeless housing – ‘right location’ is simply a way of saying NIMBY.
Halfway houses are a critical component in risk management and the successful reintegration of a parolee back to the community.
The ‘failures’ and ‘problems’ that arise with halfway houses owe far more to the failure of the corrections system to provide meaningful, effective rehabilitation, life skills and education before prisoners are processed out to halfway houses; and the lack of community based support for those dealing with mental health and substance use issues.