LETTER: Doc on homelessness enlightening

The key to treating societal crisis is intervention, reader says

The Homeless… we refer to them as “the homeless,” but actually they are maybe better termed the less fortunate. Less fortunate in that they have fell on hard times, dropped out of school too early, got hooked on drugs and/or alcohol, suffer from mental conditions that have gone untreated, to name but a few causes for their dilemma.

They now occupy our communities in growing numbers. They occupy our parks, our streets, our alleys, our sidewalks and our neighbourhoods. They create an eyesore in our community. Common complaints include: loitering, littering, accosting people for money, theft, crime, vulgarity, open drug use, discarding of needles, shouting profanities, defecating in public, intoxication and the list goes on.

A person is responsible for making many decisions in life; some you have control of and others you don’t. You have no control of who your parents are, what type of family you are born into, what decisions your parents make etc. However, as you grow older, you can decide such things as: do I stay in school or not? Do I take drugs or not? Do I smoke or not? Which people you associate with. What career do I want for myself? To shoplift or not? To steal, to commit crimes, do volunteer work, play sports, etc. I think you get my point.

For whatever reason, “the homeless” are by and large those people that have made bad choices in life and in many cases seem powerless to change their life around. Society has offered considerable assistance to “the homeless” and struggles to do more in a gallant effort to help solve the problem by offering a variety of programs to correct drug abuse, treat mental health issues, offer job re-training, providing housing assistance, etc. However, the problem persists and is getting worse.

Enforcement agencies, local governments and society in general are getting fed-up with the issue and feel the dire urgency to deal effectively with the problem and return our community to the healthy environment it once was and that what we envision for its future.

What we are doing now is piece meal and ineffective in the long run. We are spending large amounts of money and effort to little avail, outside of one or two success stories. At this rate the problem is only being perpetuated and seems to be growing year by year. It is not just in Vernon… it is in every city and community around us.

So… what is the answer? The answer is intervention. Intervention in a big way, not piece meal, but co-ordinated, holistic and institutional based.

I have come to this conclusion based on a one-hour documentary that I recently watched on YouTube. The documentary is called Seattle Dying. This is a shocking documentary of “the homeless” situation in the City of Seattle and how dire it has become. The documentary goes on to describe what is being done in Rhode Island, N.Y., to deal with “the homeless” problem. This is a must-watch documentary for all of us, especially those in government, public health, social services and law enforcement. In watching this documentary, I believe the solution becomes clear… intervention. At a large scale. As initiated and practiced in Rhode Island it appears there is a win-win-win solution.

Successful intervention calls for the identification/construction of a “secure” detention facility. Within its confines is: housing, meals, psychiatric assessment and counseling, mandatory drug treatment, etc. All are assessed and treated on their specific need(s). The goal is to rehabilitate them and re-introduce them back into society as responsible citizens. When they leave the facility they are further monitored to ensure they do not return to their past addictions and that their reintroduction back into society is a positive one. This process has been greatly appreciated by those “homeless” who were in the program interviewed in the Rhode Island intervention program part of the documentary.

Enforcement officers could now enforce bylaws and have a place to send violators, all homeless were receiving food and shelter and getting the treatment needed to be placed back into society and the community was returning to a vibrant healthy place for its citizens.

I challenge everyone to watch this one-hour documentary. I am convinced it will change how we tackle this growing problem facing every community in North America.

In concert with this intervention-community program is a systematic “get tough” approach to the drug problem. There should be zero tolerance for drug dealing and being in possession of illegal drugs. Jail time should be automatic and mandatory, with repeat offenders gaining significantly more jail time.

Officers need more authority to deal with the drug problem and the court system needs to be harsher in sentencing and in the amount of fines being imposed. The drug problem is at the root of much of the problems in society today, whether it’s the homeless crisis, the crime rate or many of societies growing problems.

Jim Skrenek

Vernon

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