By Mike Archer. In two years, from 2005 to 2007, before the economic collapse, the US experienced an overall 12 percent decrease in homelessness.
Of those helped by the US administration’s ‘housing first’ policy, Philip Mangano, George Bush’s homeless czar said, in 2009, “Their homelessness is ended. The strategy was working; then, unfortunately, the economy collapsed. The economic situation is double trouble. It’s the foreclosures coupled with job losses.”
Photo: Mayor Bruce Banman and the Salvation Army’s Deb Lowell during the forced move of the homeless back to the Honey Tree where they were chased off with chicken feces by the City with the Sally Ann’s agreement in June. Photo by Bas Stevens
If those in Abbotsford who are one pay cheque away from the street start joining those already there, our problem will also become exponentially worse.
Says Mangano of the ‘housing first’ strategy he championed, “Let’s get people into housing, the central antidote to homelessness, just as quickly as possible. Then, in the stability and security of that place to live, let’s deliver services.”
Mangano is largely credited with driving home the message of the ‘housing first’ strategy, which has been being used successfully since before Abbotsford even began pretending to deal with its homeless crisis.
In Abbotsford our politicians have ensured that the lion’s share of funding for dealing with the homeless issue goes to the Salvation Army and its outdated and extremely limited strategy of restricting itself to faith-based answers to the issue and refusing help to those who don’t meet their criteria.
And guess what – our homeless crisis got worse.
A growing number of the people joining the ranks of the homeless don’t fit the Sally Ann’s high barrier and narrow definition of those it will help. The City of Abbotsford and the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) have been left to deal with the leftovers.
The APD and the City of Abbotsford have shamed us – there is simply no more accurate or truthful way to put it.
Listen to Mangano:
“We changed the equation of homelessness. We used to think that people had to earn the right to go into housing, when they finally got to a certain level of moral goodness, a certain level of sobriety. Let’s get people into housing, the central antidote to homelessness, just as quickly as possible. Then, in the stability and security of that place to live, let’s deliver services,” says Mangano, of the moral or religious approach to homelessness of the Sally Ann and others.
Please don’t get me wrong. The Sally Ann helps a lot of the people it chooses to help. And that is worthy of our support. But the Sally Ann also hurts and abandons a lot of people by taking virtually all the public funds which are supposed to be made available to all organizations which deal with modern social issues. Those who cannot or will not accept the Sally Ann’s conversion mandate or live up to their demands of being drug or alcohol free do not deserve to be literally left to die for it.
The Abbotsford Sally Ann’s success at accessing and hoarding government money based on its own statistical analysis of the wonderful work it does is effectively forcing the community to abandon a large and growing number of the helpless people on our streets.
That wouldn’t be a problem if our politicians didn’t manipulate the system to give the Sally Ann almost all the funding. Even the Sally Ann must recognize that giving it money to help people it has no intention of helping is wrong or at the very least dumb, cruel and selfish.
Even now, with the city’s homeless strategy in tatters – harassing the ‘leftover’ citizens the Sally Ann can’t or won’t help and endlessly moving them around town – Mayor Banman is insistent that the homeless have responsibilities to show they want to do better … implying, it seems, that the lack of Protestant work ethic, or moral fiber is to blame for their circumstances.
This has to stop.
Because of ultra vires bylaws like Simon Gibson’s ‘Anti Harm Reduction’ bylaw, which keeps Fraser Health from providing healthcare to Abbotsford citizens who are drug war victims, and the lack of funding for any solutions other than faith-based moralistic ones, we are allowing people to die because they don’t measure up to the peculiar moral values of a few self-interested organizations.
Abbotsford’s Salvation Army needs to step away from the homeless they don’t intend to help and leave them alone. It can no longer be allowed to rack up statistics falsely indicating success when they have rigged the political system so that they are the only game in town to get any money.
As groups like BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors, The 5 and 2 Ministries, The Warm Zone and many others start coming out of the shadows where they have been forced to operate, a much clearer picture is emerging of the terrible damage, done in the name of somebody’s god and somebody’s funding, and to those least able to fight back.
Other communities spread the money around in order to do the most good with it. If the Salvation Army is not prepared to help all of the homeless then they should be forced to share the funding with those who will.
The business of poverty must now give way to saving lives. Now that we all know what’s been going on, we will all have blood on our hands when the next one of our fellow citizens dies alone from an overdose, an eye infection from City delivered (and Sally Ann approved*) chicken feces, or any of a hundred other dreadful deaths that result from the inability or unwillingness of our community leaders to protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us.
Shame on us if we can’t relinquish our twisted need to judge and convert and learn to simply reach out and save the lives of our fellow citizens who are dying because of our inaction our fears and our selfishness.
* The Abbotsford News has still not told the community about the Salvation Army’s agreement with the City of Abbotsford’s decision to dump chicken feces on the homeless citizens across the street from the Army’s headquarters on June 4th. I’ve been told that the Salvation Army, in response to questions about why they did that, is telling people they didn’t make the decision.
That isn’t the point. We published the Salvations Army’s official response in which they did everything but deny that they had agreed to the City’s decision. It is high time the Salvation Army admit what it did and explain to those who defend and support it exactly what happened on June 4th when they were asked by the City if they agreed with the decision to dump chicken feces on homeless citizens.
If anyone still doubts the story (revealed by Abbotsford Today and later published in the Vancouver Sun) read the memo yourself and ask the Salvation Army about it.