A Way Home

EDITORIAL: Before you condemn the homeless, breathe

What we can take away from Finding A Way Home, tales of love and connection on the streets of Abbotsford

Connection is an incredible thing. It’s the very basis of our society. The empathy we feel for others is the gravity that pulls us together.

Whether it’s the love of a spouse, emotional attachment to a pet or a passion for your community, stories of connection are the most human stories.

As social creatures, people are a significant source of our own self-esteem. Consider laughter, such a powerful impulse: When we laugh, we feel joy. When others laugh with us, we feel comforted.

Turn that on its head, and that power can become destructive. When others laugh at us, self-esteem can vanish, transforming into anger or sadness.

When our collective empathy fails, it can only be expected that some will be left behind. When Harvey Clause tells us in part one of Finding A Way Home how the homeless are treated on the streets – trash thrown at him from vehicles, for instance – that empathy has surely failed.

One key to Portugal reversing its addictions crisis of the 1980s and ’90s, as it decriminalized all drugs in the 2000s, was eliminating stigma, U.K. news outlet The Guardian notes in a December 2017 article.

“Portugal’s remarkable recovery … could not have happened without an enormous cultural shift, and a change in how the country viewed drugs, addiction,” the article reads.

Gone from the common vocabulary was “drogados,” the Portuguese equivalent of “junkie.” This is the kind of revolution we need in our own thinking in Abbotsford, and more broadly in Canada.

Addictions and homelessness aren’t entirely the same, but many of the same factors – trauma, mental health struggles, poverty – play a role in each, and there’s certainly overlap in who is affected by each.

We frequently hear the equivalent of the old children’s adage: Sticks and stones may break their bones, but what harm can come from calling a drug user a “junkie” or a homeless person a “bum”?

If you feel constantly put down by the so-called civil society around you – no matter the social and economic factors in your life – what motivation do you have to pull yourself up? Add poverty, mental health struggles or past trauma onto that, and it’s easy to see how that motivation can slip even further.

To turn that around, it’s only when you feel safe or stable that long-term planning – finding a job, going to school, saving money, applying for housing – begins to rise on your priority list.

We’ve seen it in many of the stories in our recent series Finding A Way Home, tales of love, connection and relationships on the streets of Abbotsford.

It’s when Harvey Clause lost his mother, when Gary Hull lost his dog, when the youths in the foster system felt neglected or put down by those who should be their role models that the risk of homelessness peaked.

So, when Clause tells us many people spiral into homelessness because they feel disconnected, we should believe him. And we should take note of that social power we collectively hold.

Our 2019 New Year’s resolution for Abbotsford: Breathe. Take a moment to understand where one another is coming from before you condemn.

Finding a way home
Infogram

Report an error or send us your tips, photos and video.

Like the Abbotsford News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Man, 24, charged with nine sexual offences in Abbotsford and Mission

Alleged victim, who he met online, is under the age of 16

Abbotsford parents can no longer opt kids out of class content for personal beliefs

Change comes as part of ‘big overhaul’ of school district’s learning resources policy approved by board

Live demos and stunt shows part of Vancouver Motorcycle Show

Annual event returns to Tradex in Abbotsford from Jan. 18 to 20

Abbotsford’s roads and utility chief left after just two months

City announced hiring of Rafael Villareal in November, but he has returned to old job in Kelowna

Manure company causing ‘toxic’ stink at Abbotsford school seeks permit

Property across from King Traditional Elementary cannot operate manure facility without permit

VIDEO: U.S. Congress to probe whether Trump told lawyer Cohen to lie

At issue is a BuzzFeed News report that about negotiations over a Moscow real estate project

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered B.C. girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

Explosion sends B.C. firefighter to hospital

Kelowna fire crews responded to a blaze at Pope’sGallery of BC Art & Photography on Friday

Book a ride on a driverless shuttle in Surrey or Vancouver

Automated vehicle demos are being offered, as the two cities plan pilot projects with the shuttles

Heavy snowfall expected on the Coquihalla

Snowfall warning in effect for the Coquihalla Highway, from Hope to Merritt

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Arrest made after historic B.C. church hit by arson

The fire at the 150-year-old Murray United Church in Merritt was considered a possible hate crime

Missing man from Crowsnest Pass could be in Lower Mainland

58-year-old Stuart David Duff was last seen on Jan. 6, 2019.

B.C. dangerous offender in court for violating no-contact order, sends letter to victim

Wayne Belleville was shocked to see a letter addressed to him from his shooter, Ronald Teneycke

Most Read