By Mike Archer. On Tuesday night Ruben Timmerman, a BA candidate from University of the Fraser Valley and practicum student with Abbotsford Community Services (ACS), and Megan Capp, Project Supervisor, Family Outreach & Support Worker with ACS, presented a report on the homeless men and women of Abbotsford, more than 60 percent of whom are drug addicts, without ever talking to the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS).
Tiny and Christine from the DWS who were at the presentation, which was made at the ACS offices, objected to being left out of the report while organizations such as the 5 and 2 Ministries, Abbotsford Community Services, the Women’s Resource Center and the Kinghaven & Peardonville House Society were consulted and formed the support group for the report.
“They used our picture on the front of the report, they talked about us as though they knew all about us, but when I asked them why they hadn’t even asked us to be a part of the project they just reacted like we were an afterthought,” said Tiny.
The report was performed over a four-month period and interviews were performed at Jubilee Park, George Schmidt Centre, Christine Lamb Residence, and the Warm Zone.
Perhaps the most insulting part of the whole process to drug addicts was that citizens who participated in the survey were given $5.00 Tim Horton’s cards and a $10.00 Save-On-Foods card for helping with the project.
One of the well-established protocols used by researchers and professionals who deal with marginalized drug addicts all over the world is the concept of paying stipends in cash in order to establish trust and as an expression of value for the person’s time who is being surveyed.
Homeless drug addicts are some of the hardest workers in the world and spend most of their waking hours collecting bottles, cans and recyclables in order to make enough money so they can score the drugs they desperately need. A $5 Tim Horton’s card doesn’t buy much crack.
Abbotsford seems to have a hard time understanding the science or the research that is out there about marginalized drug addicts and is constantly getting caught up in outdated, moralistic, unscientific and non-academic attitudes about dealing with marginalized people.
Apparently the possibility that addicts might spend money on drugs (go figure) instead of something more wholesome like $ 5 worth of coffee or $10 worth of groceries seems to frighten those who work with the poor in Abbotsford enough that they can’t seem to wrap their heads around how to actually communicate with homeless people.
The authors of the report took a picture of the DWS TeePee in Jubilee Park which shows some vague sense of the importance of the organization in forcing the only substantive changes that have ever occurred in Abbotsford – first with their victory in court putting an end to the ruthless, illegal, immoral and ultra vires Anti Harm Reduction Bylaws and then, because of their protest, which has been going on for over a year, their ability to force the Abbotsford Police Department to stop abusing homeless people and engaging in a campaign of dispersing and displacing them known as The Abbotsford Shuffle.
Timmerman and Capp came up with an interesting little piece of research but like most of what UFV or the ACS or MCC has come up with it is neither rigourously academic enough nor scientifically grounded enough to tell us anything we don’t already know.
If UFV is ever going to be taken seriously as a real university it is going to have to stop producing mediocre material and listening to the local cheerleaders who do not have the universitiy’s long term survival or academic reputation at heart.
Among the interesting facts revealed in the survey:
- 49% found tolerance (drugs) to be important/desirable housing feature
- 26% found discrimination and the stigma associated with living on the streets a problem and the same group felt the treatment they received from service providers and welfare was a problem
- 46% of individuals on the street feel absolutely unsafe
It is fascinating that given those little nuggets, the DWS was not asked to participate in the project. Even the MCC found that 60-80% of people on the street self identified as addicts and yet we are still talking about the homeless as though they are people who are temporarily down on their luck and just require a good meal and some good advice from a nice Christian organization to get back on their feet.
I don’t know why this community is so insistent on sticking to its thick-headed approach to providing help to people which they do not want, cannot use and in no way addresses the problems or the issues they face.
Until Abbotsford can get it into its collective head that the people who live on our streets in agony are not fodder for the business of Christianity nor fodder for the business of poverty which our care facilities have become.
If we keep using a ham-fisted amateurish approach, relying on pseudo-academic claptrap and political hocus pocus while everybody involved in helping the poor keeps spending most of their time protecting their own asses instead of telling the truth about their inability to fix things the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis will just keep going from bad to worse. More people will fall through the cracks, end up on the street, become statistics and end up dying of neglect because the people to whom we’ve entrusted the job simply can’t do it.
It is becoming more and more clear that the amateurs responsible for treating, healing and helping our mentally ill, our drug addicts and our alcohol dependent men and women simply don’t know what they are doing. They should allow someone who knows how to do the work at which they are failing so miserably take over before too many more people die.