Open Letter To Homelessness Task Force

To members of our city’s Task Force on Homelessness :

It is important that I start by declaring my bias —
I am a very strong supporter of the concept of a village that would house a number of Abbotsford’s presently homeless population. I am not a member of the Abby Digs board, and in no way should my comments reflect on their good work. I am simply offering my own opinions.
Yesterday morning, CKNW’s Bill Good show hosted a representative of Vancouver’s Social Housing Alliance (this segment is available on CKNW’s audio vault). At one point the guest talked about Abbotsford — he said that Abbotsford is “notorious in its treatment of homeless people.”

I can understand your interest in fine-tuning your mission statement — it may help in grant applications. Yet I expect those who are without shelter care more about day-to-day survival than they do about inclusive language.

I sincerely wish committee members knew more about the population being discussed. At a recent meeting the Task Force hosted a guest who supported the Lethbridge model. He said one of the first requirements is that you have someone who knows the names of those who require shelter. Are you aware that people with that knowledge have been working Abbotsford’s streets for years already ?

And are you aware that that knowledge does not appear to be valued ? Those of us who are accustomed to privilege have little need to know anything about the real lives of our street people. And it took me until yesterday’s meeting to understand the concern that your committee does not include someone who actually interacts with our homeless population.

At yesterday’s meeting — when Ms. Graves talked of the person whose bandage had become one with his wound — why did no one ask if he had been take to hospital emergency ?
I am also concerned with the continuing focus of bringing in guests from outside our community. Yes, we did hear from Ms. Graves as to why homelessness is increasing in Vancouver (a fact underlined on Bill Good’s show, July 24th). And as much as Ms. Graves is viewed with much respect, comparisons between providing housing in Vancouver and providing housing in Abbotsford are superficial at best.

I was raised in Vancouver, and until 2011 continued to own property in Vancouver — the church with which I was associated was hands-on in the DTES.

Of course a Dignity-style village would not work in Vancouver. Conversely, solutions that work in Vancouver — such as SRO’s — would not necessarily be the solution in Abbotsford. In particular I question the regulation that disallows residents of some SROs to have guests in their rooms.
Ms. Graves suggestion that Abbotsford purchase a couple of motels and renovate them for the homeless population indicated a lack of understanding of our local market. A Google search of “motels for sale Abbotsford” will provide you with “no active listings”.

Even if you were able to find an apartment block to renovate (which, incidentally, I believe is a good long-term plan), how many months would it take to have that particular solution up and running ?

Of course such a major undertaking would require an influx of both provincial or federal funds, and agreeable neighbours, to become a reality.
So unless you are willing to have our most needy citizens remain in conditions worse than any I have seen anywhere I have travelled, it seems to me the Abby Digs proposal is one that should be seriously considered.

And before you jump into hiring more staff, please consider that the dollar amount that Abby Digs requires to be up and running would be about what it would cost for a couple years’ salary for.a “housing advocate”.

It’s true we should not see ourselves as superior to our street people — they are likely as intelligent as we are, they may even have as much education, and perhaps at one time even more personal worth.

The defining difference is that they sleep outside while we have many rooms available to us, and many warm, dry blankets to comfort us.

— Regina Dalton, Abbotsford

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Deceit in Drugs says:

    Not all homeless want to or can live in a structured market housing environment…we need Housing First, a Dignatarian style village and low barrier housing.

    In fact, many are homeless, because they have been evicted numerous times from market housing, due to their lifestyle of drugs and crime dysfunction and/or mental instability.

    Abbotsford has the opportunity to think outside the box and implement
    strategies to address the varying needs of the homeless in the city.

  • The Editor says:

    Ray Farness Says:

    When you say dignity village what you really mean is drug infested ghetto where people waste their lives away. Would you want to see your parents, siblings,or children end up in a so called”Dignity village”.Well let me tell you the homeless are just that , your Brothers, Sisters, and Children .They need guidance and rehabilitation so they can recover enough common sense to manage a welfare check and not give it to drug dealers instead of paying rent… Can you not see that if you start building to accommodate drug use and human misery the place will be full instantly, the problem will mushroom, and homeless will still be on the streets.There are thousands of recovered people and many solutions. WHY don’t we consults people who have been there and fought there way back? Ask them what works and what doesn’t.

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  • The Editor says:

    Claire Steve McGrath Says:

    I totally agree, the powers that be are pushing for legalization over here. These people might live in this world but have no comprehensionof the real world, even less of an idea of what a generation of teenagers who can legally get off their faces would look like. I can imagine it and its not a pretty sight, and all so they can generate more tax

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  • The Editor says:

    Rob Heeb Says:

    Is this the voice of the enlightened age? It is not often that one has the chance to indenture an opinion with men of such powerful thinking. Both of you are tremendously astute, forward looking, deeply felt thinkers. So it is with not a small amount of trepidation that I humbly put forth my own simple understanding of this socio/economic atom bomb. As I see it; Harm reduction — not a war on drugs — has reduced illicit drug use and improved public safety in what was once Ground Zero for an HIV and overdose epidemic that cost many lives, says a 15-year study of drug use in Vancouver’s impoverished Downtown Eastside. So, what I believe that is happening here is that you are not seeing the whole picture, and as we all know; There is always more to the picture than meets the eye. In well over half the circumstance involving long term drug addiction the person becomes so in mired in that lifestyle that they really do not know of any other way of life. therefore; there really is no place for them, in mainstream society.Why would we continue to force these marginalized people in to a place of even more suffering? Do we need to have our egos stroked in order to feel safe in the knowledge that everyone is a believer in the same exact dogma as us ; therefore he is no threat. Is it imperative that everyone, act and react in the same manner as we do ? Is it then right to eject without fail anyone who so carelessly CHOOSES!!!! to RUIN their lives with addiction; henceforth excluding themselves from societies responsibility and protection?

    The report by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS found that from 1996 to 2011, fewer people were using drugs and, of those who were, fewer were injecting drugs, said Dr. Thomas Kerr, co-author of the report and co-director of the centre’s Urban Health Research Initiative.

    “A public health emergency was declared here because we saw the highest rates of HIV infection ever seen outside of sub-Saharan Africa — in this community. At the same time, the community was being levelled by an overdose epidemic,” Kerr said after presenting his findings to members of the group affected at a community centre in the heart of the neighborhood.

    Vancouver took a public health approach to the crisis, opening the country’s first supervised injection site in 2003, and Kerr said the statistics show that approach was successful.
    There were fewer people sharing needles in 2011, and there were fewer new infections of HIV and Hepatitis C related to sharing needles, the study found.

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