By James Breckenridge. From 2006 – 2014 the recommendations of Abbotsford’s Social Advisory Committee to City Council were, in the words of members of the committee, ‘disappearing into a void’.
Photo: Councillor John Smith – the architect of Abbotsford’s failed homeless strategy; Plan A and co-chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness.
Eight years of wasting the lives of the homeless.
Eight years of wasting the time and effort of the citizens who were members of ASDAC.
And people wonder why I am so cynical about City Council’s sudden creation of a Task Force with an election looming in November 2014 and the only action of significance taken by the mayor and city councillors on homelessness was telling the provincial government to take their $2.5 million dollars for construction and all the millions that would have provided the support necessary to begin to get out of the recycling of those with substance use issues and get into recover oriented housing and services, and give those millions of dollars to a city that cares.
Mental illness, substance use, addiction … no true progress of significance can be made until the individual is ready. Personal responsibility and the commitment to doing the years of hard slogging, to dealing with all the pain, darkness and unpleasantness you will have to slog through to find recovery, wellness and happiness.
Until Abbotsford has a City Council with a sense of personal responsibility and a commitment to doing what is needed to address these issues, however long it takes; to providing leadership and the backbone demanded by this matter …all the increasing social issues, not just homelessness and substance use, that cities face today will continue to worsen in Abbotsford.
Reality will be reality, truth will be truth, regardless of lack of understanding, disbelief, or ignorance on the part of anyone.
The failure to pay attention that results from the mayor and council’s wilful refusal to acknowledge any reality they did not want to see has cost – and continues to cost – Abbotsford taxpayers dearly. As recent media reports have highlighted one of the major costs of council’s refusal to see anything but what they want to see is the $23 million dollars squandered on the Heat debacle and the $100+ million spent on a building that is empty because it was not needed … except in the fantasy world that the mayor and members of council dwell in.
‘Learning more’ is a time tested way for politicians to avoid applying what we already know. Any good general, any good leader, can tell you that the only thing that constant analysis achieves is paralysis.
I have spoken with several members of the task force, including previous members of ASDAC who feel they need to give Abbotsford’s mayor and councillors a chance to show that the task force is not simply cover or camouflage for mayor and council who have failed to address homelessness with any effectiveness – or thought.
In thinking about the task force and its members it occurs to me that, should they so choose, the members of the task force can choose to act in the best interests of the homeless and the city – no matter what the mayor and council’s purpose in forming the taskforce was.
Should the members of the task force choose to take the bit firmly in their teeth the first order of business is to declare that it is time to stop recycling people through the traditional system of treatment and implement the services and supports that research and outcomes show to be effective in creating recovery and wellness.
The reason Housing First is part of addressing homelessness in those communities committed to reducing homelessness and dealing with mental illness and substance use in a long term and effective manner, is because Housing First was developed to be about recovery and wellness – about breaking the ‘business as usual’ cycle of recycling people through the system..
Abbotsford Community Services Housing First proposal was the right proposal, in the right location, the best choice as a first step to changing from recycling to recovery and to begin to put in place the resources, services and supports necessary for recovery.
If members of the task force intend to ‘damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead’ and be effective in dealing with homelessness in Abbotsford then their first order of business must be to stand up and tell mayor and council that the most important first step in addressing homelessness is to commit to getting out of recycling and into recovery and that committing to recovery requires council to approve and support the ACS housing proposal.
Let’s make it clear where the task force, mayor, city councillors, citizens – everyone – stands on the nitty gritty reality of homelessness:
Are you prepared to commit to taking the necessary actions, the actions that have been demonstrated to be effective in reducing homelessness, recovery from mental illness, substance use and addiction?
Or are you committed to saying the right things while opposing what has been proven effective around the world in reducing homelessness and fostering recovery and wellness?
It is time to stand up and be counted. Because the task force, best practices, beginning to effectively promote and support recovery and wellness will accomplish NOTHING unless we, as a community are prepared and committed to taking effective action(s).
Do, or do not. There is no try. Yoda