The Void – Squandered Opportunities

By James Breckenridge. We need to stop recycling people endlessly and put in place the support and services that result in recovery in wellness.

Cover Photo by Bas Stevens

It is simple mathematics. With a recycling system that has only 3 – 5% of those receiving treatment still sober at the end of the first year – – new individuals are entering the system at a rate exceeding that of individuals exiting the system.

The result is that the number of individuals IN the system keeps increasing.

After years of continually adding individuals, the system is overwhelmed by the current number of individuals who are homeless, using substances, with mental health and capability issues.

We need to begin to reduce the numbers. It is a task that if we choose to commit to it, we can accomplish.

This is not rocket science. We have the knowledge of what is required and we have the existence and results of years of best practices.

Housing First was born in the 1990’s to meet the need for a recovery based approach, as opposed to the traditional recycling approach.

That is why the housing first project proposed by Abbotsford Community Services is so important. Until we – Abbotsford, British Columbia – commit to recovery as the basis of our programs we will continue to sink under increasing numbers.

A little research on housing first, recovery and best practices will show that, in terms of housing first and recovery, the location behind ACS was excellent – arguably the best in Abbotsford.

The location on the corner of Emerson Street and Peardonville Road, beside MSA Arena, also would have been an excellent location for the house proposed for that location a decade ago. But that proposed housing was also judged to be “we support housing, but this is is the wrong location” and Abbotsford’s mayor and council said ‘No” to BC Housing’s $11 million for capital cost and the $60 million to provided recovery oriented support and services.

The Christine Lamb Building was also “needed housing, wrong location”. Fortunately, events resulted in council being in a position where, for political reasons, council couldn’t say no. The result? The residents have benefited and none of the scaremongering or dire predictions of disaster have occurred.

Indeed, during the public information session on the ACS housing proposal a resident who had moved to Abbotsford and the area where the Christine Lamb building is located commented that he could not understand what the fuss was about as the building and residents were no problem.

After the 2010 winter Olympics the citizens of Abbotsford, a city with a desperate need for healthy affordable housing, could watch housing units from the2010 winter Olympics roll through Abbotsford on their way to Chilliwack. How was it that Chilliwack got these housing units and Abbotsford didn’t? Chilliwack’s mayor and council asked the provincial government for the units.

There is no way to quantify the opportunities and resources that Abbotsford could and would have received from the provincial government had there been a mayor and council interested in addressing affordable housing and homelessness issues. But this was a period when the provincial government was purchasing SROs in Vancouver and providing funding to renovate the buildings in order to provide affordable housing.

There is also no way to quantify the programs, funding and resources that the city of Abbotsford could or would have received from Fraser Health if not for council’s Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw.

All we can say is that during a period where the provincial government was making large investments in affordable housing and homeless resources the actions of the mayors, councils and councillors of Abbotsford resulted in all the money and resources bypassing Abbotsford for cities with mayors and councils interested in addressing affordable housing and homeless issues.

To a lesser degree the same is true of programs and initiatives from Fraser Health that were put in place in the rest of the communities in the Fraser Health region, but not Abbotsford with its Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw.

Rational, thinking individuals know from watching government behaviour that when a government, or government bureaucracy are making large investments in areas such as affordable housing and homelessness you get to the trough and get as much as you can because this state of affairs and largess will not last.

But then no one has accused Abbotsford recent councillors or mayors of being rational, thinking or astute.

Indeed the actions of councillors and mayors would suggest that despite all the hand wringing and finger pointing, neither councillors nor mayors were/are interested in securing provincial funds for affordable housing or homelessness issues. Or for projects such as the Great White Elephant (the Abbotsford Centre) where Abbotsford – as a result of city council’s mismanagement – was the only BC city not to receive provincial funding for their new hockey arena.

Good money management , responsible money management, responsible behaviour have never been a hallmark of recent councils, councillors or mayors.

Leave a Reply