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Letter: Be part of the solution to end homelessness, not the problem

"I would like to take this opportunity to talk about my experience with the homeless... of Kelowna."

To the editor:

I would like to take this opportunity to talk about my experience with the homeless community of Kelowna. I am very saddened by the way that a lot of people see them and treat them. Unfortunately, my son and his girlfriend are part of the homeless population and the stories they have told me, both breaks my heart and angers me. I would love nothing more than to take them in but I am not allowed to or I will be evicted myself. I am also not financially capable to rent a two-bedroom place with my income in today’s rental market.

I try to help them as much as I can by giving them food and buying them warm clothes and blankets which often will get stolen by other homeless people or taken by city bylaw officers when they have had to leave their belongings unattended so that they may go to their appointments.

This brings me to talk about the main reason why they are homeless. They are both addicted to heroin, which started from taking painkillers prescribed by doctors. They are now in the process of getting clean by going to counselling and taking daily treatments. I am very proud of their efforts to break this horrible addiction and I encourage them every single day to keep going. I’ve held my son in my arms while he has sobbed and told me how much he doesn’t want to die and that he wants to be free of heroin’s deadly grip. As a mom who loves her child, I will see him succeed and live a productive life again, no matter how many people tell me I should walk away and let him deal with this on his own.

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With that being said, I now want to address the way some people treat our homeless. I am completely appalled by some of the stories I have heard.

Just yesterday, my son was asleep in an alley, in a little makeshift shelter he had made from a discarded tent and plywood. He was warm enough to be able to sleep and was rudely awakened by a couple of bylaw officers and told he had to move on. One officer gruffly demanded that my son give him his name, and when my son said not to worry that he will pack up his belongings and move on, the officer growled at him again, wanting his name. The second officer pulled the first aside and spoke to him, which made the first officer come back and be a little more polite. Then my son told him his name. Unfortunately, being woken up in this manner, my son did not think to get the officers name and badge number so that he could report this rude behaviour, but he knows who he is.

While this was going on, my son’s girlfriend went to the hospital area so she could connect to a WiFi signal so that she could text me to come, while at the hospital, she went into the little coffee shop there and asked if she could have a cup of hot water for a tea bag that she and she was asked to pay for it! I couldn’t believe it! How incredibly mean and insensitive to ask for money for a cup of hot water from a homeless person in freezing cold weather!

Back in the summer, my son approached the doormen at the OK Corral with an empty bottle and politely asked if he could fill it up with water because he was homeless and thirsty, and he was told no and to get lost!

What the hell is wrong with people? Homeless people are people, and they deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion. These are people in crisis. They need to be shown that someone cares about the horrible situation they are in. It’s no wonder many of them get angry and defensive towards the rest of the world. I get so angry when I hear about the resistance to housing projects going up and how we should not be helping “these scumbags and thieves”. Anyone who says that “It’s their choice,” is very ignorant as no one chooses to grow up to be a homeless addict. No one.

My son is a good, kind person in a terrible situation that he is trying very hard to get out of. It’s people who treat him horribly and with such disgusting behaviour that makes him bitter, resentful, and angry. No, not everyone treats him that way, but those that do, you should be deeply ashamed of yourselves!

Since when do you have the right to judge another human being who you don’t even know? Try putting yourself in their shoes for a while.

I will often buy a few extra groceries when I can afford to and give a little something to a homeless person I don’t even know and they are truly grateful. Every little bit helps.

I would also like to point out that no one is safe from life on the streets, think about that for a moment. What if that homeless person sleeping on the cold hard ground was your son or daughter or parent? What if it were you? It could happen.

So instead of being cruel, be kind. Instead of turning a blind eye, offer a smile. Instead of saying no, offer to buy a cup of coffee or a hot meal. Instead of ignoring them, stop and listen to their story. It will do your soul some good to help someone in need and make you a much better person.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Kathy Lynn

Kelowna

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