LETTER: Help homeless, not ship them out of town

I read the Feb.3, letter from Anne Holmes with a heavy heart. It is full of anger and vitriol and lacks not only any sense of compassion but any kind of reasonable solution.

Packing people up to be “returned to their home towns” is not practicable. What will you do with the ones who are Abbotsford citizens? Pop them on a bus regardless?

I agree that the current situation cannot stand; a solution needs to be in place so the city centre camps can come down permanently. As Ms. Holmes so rightly points out, “every municipality has to look after their own.”

I’m unclear how actions such as shutting down charities will accomplish this. The Salvation Army feeds a great many people who are in need, not just the homeless. It is likely as well that the demands on their services will be increasing as the economic slow down continues. The economy is in dire straits and the policies by the former Conservative federal government and the current Liberal government have left B.C. in a particular bad way. Things will not improve by carrying on as we have; it is obvious new revenue streams are needed.

Legalization may be our salvation. Washington State is currently making $1.4 million USD a day in cannabis and related product sales following legalization. That’s a lot of tax money to spread around.

As for her last statement, “These people had the same opportunity as we did to become responsible, tax-paying citizens” – that rant is demonstrably untrue. Studies regularly report that 20 to 25 per cent of homeless people suffer from some form of mental illness.

Economic cutbacks and policies driven by those of Ms. Holmes’ ilk have ensured that those who suffer do not get the help and support they need; ending up on the street is an inevitable consequence.

As for those who “just” suffer from addiction, contrary to Ms. Holmes’ beliefs, it is not cannabis that has them down and out. Drug and alcohol addicts face barriers to treatment, akin to those experienced by mentally ill: there are not enough services to assist in place. The situation exists because of us. We did not help and did not protest when help was taken away.

Perhaps instead of seeking to grind “them” under her boot and sweep them out of sight, Ms. Holmes could recognize that “these people” are in actual fact “just people” and they need a hand up, not another kick while they are already down.

Michelle Pahl