By Mike Archer. For those who don’t understand why the mentally ill, the drug addicted and the alcohol dependant have trouble ‘pulling themselves up by their bootstraps’ here is a reality check.
Many of us tried drugs and got over them. Whether a mild brush with marijuana or hash in college, pain killers or amphetamines in the workplace or a thorough crash and burn on smack, coke or crack, through whatever means we chose to stop – we managed.
Others are still using. I challenge anybody in Abbotsford who thinks ‘these people’ should stop using drugs to empty your medicine cabinet of all the legal drugs which help you get through the night thanks to your drug plan or your fat wallet.
Get by for a week without your valium, your tobacco, or your scotch and remind me why those without a pay checue, a mortgage, or a drug plan ought to just stop
There are two reasons someone is able to stop using drugs:
1) A loving and helpful support group
2) A short or prolonged detoxification and return to normalcy
Most importantly – and we have known this for over a decade – a human being in distress must have a safe place to be – housing of some sort.
Without it, all of the moralizing, lecturing, posturing, detox, and beating we can throw at them are not going to accomplish a God damned thing.
That’s why it’s called ‘Housing First.’
That’s also why the ‘homelessness policy’ promulgated by Bob Bos, John Smith, Bruce Beck, Bob Rich and Bruce Banman is so cruel and unsuccessful.
To think that those who have ended up living in our ditches have chosen to be there or prefer living that way because they lack character or God or something spiritual in their lives is simply uneducated claptrap.
Those who either avoided drugs or have successfully fought their way back from dependence can feel as proud as they want about their voyage and we should all be happy they made it.
Just remember you were part of the lucky majority.The tough love; ‘detox or nothing’; praise the lord and halleluiah approaches do not work for everybody. You may believe that the right choices you made are what saved you …
“The problem with this thinking is that it is factually incorrect. In other words, they are all wrong.
“What saved them (you) from becoming addicted is that their brains did not respond in the same way that an addict’s brain does. They were born with a resistance to addiction. Their free will and good choices had nothing to do with it.
“It is time for all of us who got through unscathed to stop patting ourselves on the back for our genetic good luck, and it is time to stop judging those who were not born with the same good genes as defective.”[source]
Councillor Henry Braun, who is the only member of council who has given enough of a damn to actually visit members of the Drug War Survivors who are fighting the City to stop the physical, mental and emotional abuse and harassment, which has been the sum total of the homeless policy of the City and its cops, said it well when he addressed council on February 17.“They are not scary people. I’ve been to every camp along Gladys Avenue and I have spoken with these men and women individually. I’ll tell you – if I had their stories … I’d be on drugs.”
Whether or not we help the men and women whom we have abandoned on the side of the road depends not so much on being prepared to do the right thing – there are as many definitions of the right thing as their are political, religious and business interests in this city.It depends us on choosing our priorities. As long as it is more important for people to be right, to make money, to have everybody else believe what they believe, to understand their point of view or make sure people get converted … we will continue to do nothing.
And people will keep on dying in agony and misery because we cared more about what matters most to us rather than simply treating our fellow citizens with respect and basic human dignity.I’ve been told ‘these people’ just want to live off my ‘my tax dollar.’ Most of the people about whom you think you are talking aren’t even in good enough shape to collect their $610 welfare cheques and, since Canada Post won’t deliver to tents by the railway tracks, they are unable enjoy much of ‘your tax dollar.’
Don’t get me started on how easy it would be for any of those on our streets to ‘get a job.’ When you haven’t been indoors or changed your clothes in six months is hard to make a good impression at a job interview. Maybe they should all go over to apply at the Chamber of Commerce for one of Abbotsford’s upwardly mobile jobs.
I’ve even heard the amazing statement that ‘these people’ are so determined not to be helped that they live across the street from the Salvation Army and don’t even go inside!Setting aside the fact that the Sally Ann was consulted, knew about and approved of last summer’s Chicken Manure dump, the reason the people living along Gladys Avenue aren’t housed at the Sally Ann is because the Sally Ann won’t house them!
Every housing option available in Abbotsford is a high barrier shelter – allowing no drugs or alcohol or ‘inappropriate’ behaviour. The ACS/BC Housing proposal was a meagre attempt to help a very small percentage of the hundreds and hundreds of homeless men and women living on the streets of Abbotsford.
Through lies, misinformation, untruths and uninformed fear mongering, a small number of powerful people at the ADBA and the Chamber of Commerce managed to convince Bruce Banman to make the biggest mistake in the history of this community other than John Smith’s Plan A.
Someone has to have the courage to tell this community to smarten up, educate itself and stop falling victim to uneducated, uninformed false prophecies from self-interested predators and fools.
These men and women are our fellow citizens … we can’t rezone their addictions or their illness. We can only give a damn about them.
And if you don’t … please get the hell out of the way.