LETTER: Better mental health plan needed

The attack at our high school has left me wondering: When are we going to do something about the homeless epidemic plaguing our society?

The attack at our high school has left me wondering: When? When are we going to do something about the homeless epidemic plaguing our society?

When I grew up in Abbotsford, in the 1980s, I never saw homeless people here. In fact, I remember seeing my first “hobo.” He had taken up shelter under the overpass near Sneaker’s Pub. I wanted to give him food.

Now, my five-year-old and three-year-old daughters peer out the van’s window at a small hamlet of homeless. Is this the new normal here? In Canada? Good God, it better not be!

It seems it all started with the closing of Riverview Hospital.

I would be very interested to see the data on local homeless rates in conjunction with the timing of the closing of the psychiatric hospital. I think we can all agree, it increased. And so, too, presumably, has the rate of hard drug addicts living here, emergency room visits, and 24-hour incarcerations. I’m thinking the experts at UFV sociology and criminology have research supporting the perception.

This murderer freely walked into our open and welcoming doors, when he likely should have been in a psych ward. Obviously, he wasn’t right in the head. At the very least, if he wasn’t homeless, he wouldn’t even have been here in the first place.

For years now, law enforcement, health care workers, first responders, church groups, community service workers, and the like have been toiling valiantly to plug the holes, but are running out of fingers.

The dozens and dozens of homeless, hard-drug addicted, who roam central Abbotsford – from Jubilee Park and toward the area by the old Buckerfield’s Tower – are sick. They need medical care, and it’s pretty obvious the current “solution” can be improved. The fallout we, in the community, are routinely subjected to, is far heftier than the cost to initiate action. It’s time for a change. And it’s time Abbotsfordonians demand it.

We must get these sick people off the streets and into the medical care that only highly trained medical professionals can provide. Building shelters without doctors will not work. In fact, it may attract more transients.

By casting the meekest in our society aside, we insult the principles of what we are. By not demanding that every single street in our town be safe, we insult what we were.

I wonder how it is possible we’ve come this far, for this long, without a better solution. Where were Mike de Jong, Ed Fast and the rest of them? How can you represent this area for that long, and not have been pounding on power’s door, demanding these sick people off our daughters’ streets, and out of our sons’ neighbourhoods?! Stand up and tell them homelessness is directly and indirectly linked to too many problems here!

Instead, Abbotsfordians, like so many other townspeople across the country, are left slugging it out in the trenches. And you know what? We shouldn’t have to. We shouldn’t have to give a square inch of our town to insanity. We shouldn’t have to give a square inch of our town to chaos. Here we’ll fight it. And we are strong.

It’s time for an end to this version of the Riverview experiment. We need a better plan.

It won’t heal every ill. But it’s a good place to start!

Mike Howe

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