Understanding, Choosing, Wisdom …

By James Breckenridge. Our lives, our society, are the sum result of all the choices we make, both consciously and unconsciously. In control of the process of choosing, lies control of all aspects of our lives.

Positive control of the process of choosing requires choosing wisely; choosing wisely requires understanding. Without understand and wisdom, chance is left in control of our future.

On Monday February 3, 2014 Abbotsford City Council will decide whether Abbotsford Community Services can build the First Stage Housing they have proposed to use to help the homeless, those faced with mental health and/or substance use challenges, to begin the process of recovery.

Housing that would start to answer the question council’s decades old policy of chasing the homeless endlessly around Abbotsford has ignored – “Where else can they go?”.

Housing First is a model of recovery recognized by psychiatric professionals as an alternative approach to the traditional approaches to treatment; an approach pioneered in the 1990’s by Sam Tsemberis [a faculty member of the Department of Psychiatry of the New York University School of Medicine] and the Pathways to Housing organization in New York City.

The results achieved using Housing First have resulted in it being recognized as a ‘best practice’ for governments and service-agencies in their fight to end chronic homelessness; have resulted in the use of Housing First by governments and organizations in countries around the world, including Canadian cities such as Calgary, where Housing First is part of Calgary’s plan to address and end homelessness.

The mistake often made about Housing First as a result of its first priority being to provide housing, is that Housing First is not about abstinence. However, in understanding the Housing First approach one understands Housing First is about dealing with a person’s substance use and/or mental health challenges – after housing them. It is an approach that has proven to get people into treatment faster than the traditional approaches do.

An outcome that reminds us that, when addressing homelessness, mental illness and substance use, we need to remember that People are at the center of the process and when People are central to anything, it is a given that outcomes will have a large iffy [full of unresolved points or questions] factor.

But these are just facts, and while facts are important to choosing wisely, a wise choice also requires understanding and awareness of what other, less obvious or hidden decisions will be included in the choice(s) made.

Whether the City of Abbotsford and the APD step out of the 19th century and into the 21st century; whether a start is made on addressing chronic homelessness, mental illness and substance use on Abbotsford’s streets, are not the only decisions that will be made by Abbotsford City Council in their Yea or Nay on the ACS housing proposal..

Council’s Yea or Nay on the ACS proposal will decide – and declare to the world – something far more fundamental and important: What type of community Abbotsford chooses to be.

Not the type of City Abbotsford proclaims itself to be.

But the type of City revealed in the actions and behaviours of Abbotsford; for it is actions and behaviours, not words, that true colours are shown.

Will City Council choose for Abbotsford to set out to become, in the reality of deeds, the City that Abbotsford unfoundedly claims to be?

Or will City Council choose to continue to be the City its behaviour, such as the use of chicken manure as a poor man’s biological weapon against its mentally ill and homeless citizens, declared Abbotsford to be to fellow Canadians and the World.

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