imagesRegina’s letter prompted this response from someone who actually is quite literate, despite the many typos.  I won’t correct them as they are the original, but its amazing how many people write in haste on tiny, hand-held gadgets, firing off all sorts of communication full of mistakes.  Oh well.  This email is written by someone who, like Regina, genuinely cares about helping the less fortunate in life……so here are her thoughts……

“Helping house those in need needs tog o way beyond just finding a house or an apt or room to rent.   The homeless require supports and many have been in housing
and evicted due to drug use, assaults, crime etc. and turned their neighborhoods upside down and countless calls to police for disruptions, fights etc.
I support housing with supports….a neighborhood downthe street from me tired to shut down a dysfunctional drug house a few blocks from me and
police were trying to shut it down due to thefts in neighborhood, erratic behavoir on the streets and drugged and drunk people going in & out…
5 & 2 helped by bringing in mattresses…10+ all piled in the basement with candles to keep warm at night …a fire hazard finally allowed city to board up house.
This is not really helping anyone…we need to follow lead of Lethbridge housing with continual supports.”

Then from: Regina Dalton:

On my walk to work this morning I saw a very graphic representation of the cost (fiscal and personal) of our province’s inablity to house those in need of supportive care.

A long-time resident of Abbotsford’s teepee camp was on the ground, with two emergency vehicles (ambulance & fire truck) and five first responders circling him.  I noticed that the prone individual managed to get to his feet, while trying to avoid the debris from his now-emptied cart.He looked somewhat unstable, but it did not appear the ambulance would be required after all (the fire truck and its crew had departed).  I know that this is not the first time this particular individual has required attention from first responders.  And I in no way begrudge the services rendered.
Yet, this should not be happening.  Here in our fine Valley, we have way too many people living in deplorable conditions — conditions far worse than those I’ve seen in countries much poorer than Canada.At a recent forum looking at homelessness in Hope, B.C., a presenter informed the audience that the numbers of homeless individuals started to increase in the mid-80s.  She also told us that this was the same decade that saw many jurisdictionss jump on the de-institutionalization bandwagon.  It makes no sense to ignore the link between evicting people from institutional care, providing them with no other meaningful option, and the impossible living conditions of many vulnerable individuals.
And no, I am not saying that all street folk are mentally challenged (even if I would say that most of us who are not street people experience mental challenges).  However, I expect that “choice” has little to do with people sleeping on damp bedding under leaking tarps.  How many of us –if we had our wallet with all our id stolen — would have the first idea how to start over to prove we are who we say we are ?  How many of us would know how to create a resume suitable for online distribution (the favoured route for many employers) ?  How many of us could breeze through a job interview ?  How many of us would know what to do if we received an eviction notice ? — and yes, eviction notices can come for reasons other than non-payment of rent.We have heard that  many Canadians are one or two paychecks from not being able to pay their bills. Even if we think we do not know those “type of people”, we could be very surprised.  
Agreed, not everyone who is homeless needs supervised or even supportive care.  Some just need a place to live.  And we seem to be ignoring what many without shelter are saying.  Many answer that they want a place of their own (this may be confirmed locally through the Timmerman survey).   Saying that people should just get together and share rent isn’t always the answer.  (Those of us who have ever lived with anyone else can certainly understand why.)  And admittedly, there is likely no “one size fits all” answer regardless.
Abbotsford will — perhaps by 2017 — have a 21-bed unit that will serve individuals either currently without a home, or in danger of becoming homeless.  We need more, and we could certainly benefit with it coming on line sooner rather than later.
Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson recently admitted that his stated objective to end street homelessness by 2015 was no longer viable.  Apparently, instead of improvement when it comes to their homeless population, Vancouver is going in the opposite direction.

So perhaps Abbotsford should not copy the mistakes made in Vancouver.  Apparently rates in some of the privately-owned DTES hotels are out of reach for those on welfare (unlike MLA salaries, welfare rates have not seen an increase in 8 years).  

Perhaps we have to avoid the route of leaving it to the private sector to  provide affordable housing — particularly the type of housing that that city appears incapable of properly regulating.  It does not make for comfortable viewing when TV news shows us the leaking and rat-infested examples of  housing on offer.  It’s a sad commentary when we can actually understand people choosing the street over these sub-standard accomodations.Does Abbotsford really want to go that same route ?  
We could, here in our fine Valley, actually do something different.  And I am the last to say I guarantee success.  But we know that what’s happening in Vancouver is not working — just talk to Mayor Robertson.  So how about if we look to the south.  Several American cities are embracing sites that offer individual housing, but in a community setting.The small cabins on these sites fit the bill for those who want their own place.  At the same time, the sense of community apparent in the current camp sites could be continued.  An excellent article talking about this alternative option is titled “Tiny Houses for the Homeless: an Affordable Solution Catches On” (author: Erika Lundahl, posted Feb.20/14 on YES magazine).Unlike housing either built from scratch, or renovated at hefty expense — often more than $100,000 a unit — the individual cabins can cost much, much less.If Abbotsford chose that route, I would expect oversight both from within and outside of the camp community.  But since Dignity Village in Portland, Oregan has had a successful tenure of over 14 years, why expect anything less locally ?Abbotsford is not Vancouver — Vancouver could never supply the required land for one-story housing.  We can, and it would not come at the cost of affordable housing for any other group.And the biggest advantage is that housing could happen much, much sooner than anything else on the books.  Now if we could just recognize some palpable will to do something different than “what Vancouver is doing”.