The dinner party was going fine. The food was tasty, the wine flowed like a river in spring and then somebody mentioned the war and grand dad slammed down his glass and said "Don't get me started about the war!" but obviously it was too late. . . . he'd started. Frothing and waving his arms and stabbing the air with his finger. Oh yes, he'd started. Mom went to the kitchen to get the trifle, hoping that a bit of sherry soaked cake would divert the old man from his rant.
My children know it's best to leave the room when the topic of homelessness gets brought up.
But it's only because it is a problem that's near and dear to my heart, and one that's been exacerbated by mealy-mouthed politicians that refuse to accept responsibility for issues that they have created by their mistaking symptoms for problems and their utter disregard and misuse of language to assuage the sensitivities of fringe self-interested groups.
(Wow, Duane, tell us how you really feel...)
The "homeless" problem. When a tornado whips through some trailer park in Texas and obliterates a dozen double wides it can legitimately said that those poor folks that are left are now homeless. They had a home. Now they don't. They're homeless.
We've used the same word in major cities, including Vancouver to describe a different phenomena. People that for reasons that don't need enumerating have made the street or a tent city their home.
Why do we call them homeless? Because the elected governments have been cowed by self-interested advocacy groups that rely on the tyranny of political correct language. The result, of course, is that we spend millions of dollars fixing a symptom of a problem, creating housing, while ignoring the real problem because we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
What would happen if the mayor stood up and said this:
"Wehave a crisis in Vancouver. We have 2,000 mentally ill and drug addicted people that we, the people of Vancouver, have allowed to dictate the budgets, housing, policing, and emergency services of this city. We have ignored the real roots of this problem, and it has cost us dearly. We have provided band-aids to a problem that requires surgery. We have taken responsibility for a problem that is not our in the creating, nor in our jurisdiction to solve with the resources at our disposal. We have, quite frankly, wasted millions in tax payer monies.
Instead of spending a half a billion dollars annually on programs and solutions that have clearly not worked, and if anything have made things worse, it is my pleasure to announce the following.
The City of Vancouver, along with other affected municipalities and the Province of British Columbia is creating a 5,000 bed facility in the interior of BC. The facility will provide healthcare, counselling, medical grade heroin, drug withdrawal therapies and psychiatric intervention for those least able to care for themselves. It will be arranged around a 1000 hectare farm where the people in care will be able to contribute their efforts in a healthy outdoor environment.
I should be clear. This is not a prison. It is a center for healing. People with mental illness or drug addiction that have found themselves on the streets with no hope, no possibility of escaping their demons will be housed at the facility until they can put their lives on a positive path.
We are not here to judge.
These are the facts. People have mental illnesses. People are addicted to drugs. But they are still people. They are somebody's son. Somebody's daughter.
We, as a civilized western society have a responsibility to care for all of our citizens.
We do not, however, have the obligation to house people in the most expensive city in Canada while they receive care. We do not need to accept people sleeping in our parks, peeing in our alleys, shooting up on fire escapes, begging at intersections, stealing to feed their habits, and creating a constant cycle of arrest, incarceration, only to ultimately end up back on the street, with neither the problem, or the symptoms of those problems being ameliorated in any way. Rinse and repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
This brave new venture is not without potential pitfalls, but we believe that the overall societal effect will be positive and will result in an increase in the care and treatment of our most at risk, a decrease in crime, and major cost savings for the people of Vancouver and British Columbia."