CINDY KOSZEGI: weighs in on the Abbotsford Homeless debate.

I read this letter with great interest – I worked in Abbotsford for 25 years, having lived there for 11, and well recall when the area in question was a respectable neighbourhood. If my memory serves me right it’s about ten or twelve years ago that area began its decline. It has been almost two years since I left my employment in Abbotsford and although I’ve lived in Hope for eleven years now, it has only been these past near to two years I’ve become a full time resident in the community in which I live, having opened my own business here. Which brings me to respond to this topic. Here in Hope, just two km’s from my home, is the Thunderbird Motel Project. The T-Bird is also a low-barrier housing project (some of you may recall its temporary notoriety in the summer of 2009 when the fugitive from the US, Ryan Jenkins, rented a roomthere and hanged himself) . See, here in Hope, we also have a tremendous problem with homelessness. We also have many in the community afflicted by addiction, mental health issues, and the results of a combination of the two maladies .As far as I can tell, we as a community were not given the opportunity to provide input during the planning stages and I’ve yet to speak to a single resident who was aware what was proposed to take place at the T-Bird. See, right across the street from the T-Bird is a mobile home community that is very well known for its available drug dealers. And now, right beside the T-Bird is a Flying J Travel Centre. Just a short bicycle ride or walk away is also a beer and wine store. And, somehow, the folks who reside at the T-Bird are very mobile- bicycles are the transportation of choice and I’ve very nearly had these bike riders, who were obviously under some influence, hit my car (in a couple cases they were TRYING to be hit) and have had discussion on the matter with both the RCMP and the program administrator who works at the T-Bird about this issue. PLUS discussion on the mobility of its residents to cruise residential neighborhoods complete with back pack at all hours of the day or night. See, abandoning their detrimental lifestyles is not required for acceptance nor continued residence at the T-Bird. Apparently acceptance is based on the STATED DESIRE of the individual to better their lives .In the words of Gerry Dyble, who’s Hope and Area Transitions Society produced the YouTube production “The Thunderbird Motel Project” states, ver batim:…” take people who are on the streets or at risks for homelessness which means they’re living in conditions which are not safe and affordable and putting them into an environment where they still may be engaged in their lifestyle of addictions or mental health issues, so we’re not expecting that by housing them that one day they’re not going to be addicted or have their mental health under control. They still have their issues, their daily battles they have with life. We feel that with this project we’re meeting them where they’re at, supporting them in their goals, and working alongside of them creating a quality of life that’s benefitting them and keeping them housed.” That, readers, is what could be construed as ‘enabling’. Add to the enabling inherent in the program the close proximity of available drugs and residential areas ripe for the thefting, and we have a problem. From what I’m reading about the housing project to be taking place in Abbotsford its not far different from what we have here in Hope. The Thunderbird Motel Project is NOT something I would have considered a good fit for its location and I see the same difficulties arising in Abbotsford in greater number than at present once it is established.