LETTER: Still blaming the addict

Seeing this article compels me to share my actual experience as a mental health worker over the last five years

Re: Letter to the editor by Jackie Newman (Nov. 19) which confuses our route to a solution for our national homelessness crisis by trying to draw a merited distinction between our homeless population and our addicted population. Furthermore, conducting the letter as though there could be certainty to whether homelessness is a personal or moral choice when it is categorically a health issue presumes that there is data supporting your conclusion, which there is not.

Seeing this article compels me to share my actual experience as a mental health worker at a government-funded social justice organization in Vancouver over the last five years

The company I work for houses over 1,000 previously homeless human beings in over 55 separate projects under a simple mantra: “Somewhere to sleep, something to eat, and someone to talk to.” We acknowledge that a traumatized person cannot begin to liberate themselves from their affliction  – be that chronic homelessness, addiction or both – until their basic needs are met.

Our homeless have always been with us, and they may always be. The fact is we cannot understand the cause or cure for chronic homelessness or addiction unless we relegate the part of ourselves that condemns the addict. Only then can we begin looking at systemic causes to our systemic problems.

We live in the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. We live in the only city in Canada with an archaic, draconian bylaw against the distribution of harm-reduction supplies which stands in the way of internationally accepted methods to reduce homelessness.

And you still want to blame the addict.

Joshua McDaniel