For three years, a tax resulting from a referendum has been helping to address homelessness in the Comox Valley. Photo supplied

For three years, a tax resulting from a referendum has been helping to address homelessness in the Comox Valley. Photo supplied

Letter: People with lived experience of homelessness, trauma and addictions must be at the HART table



Having read the article, “Group tackles the complexity of homelessness, trauma and addictions”, in the Sept. 13 edition of the Hope Standard, I cannot help but respond.

I’m not sure how having a team full of “local, regional, and provincial movers and shakers” can ever help to understand what fuels addictions and relapse. I have no doubt that these representatives are intelligent people who sincerely wish to help solve the problem, but I find it hard to believe that anyone who has not been through addictions, can possibly understand what drives a drug addict.

I think it’s imperative to have those with lived experience in addictions and homelessness on board to shed some light on the subject from a totally different, and what could be, enlightening perspective.

There are many people in Hope, who have fought their addictions and won. I would think that their input would be particularly valuable.

READ MORE: Group forms in Hope to respond to homelessness, trauma and addictions

I understand and agree that labelling addictions and homelessness as a Hope and Area Transition Society (HATS) issue is ridiculous! Even though HATS willingly took the reins in this area for almost a decade in Hope, they are fighting a losing battle…alone.

One organization by itself does not have all the necessary resources to deal with this escalating problem. It is a great idea to work together as a community, as groups, and as individuals.

Having been a resident at the Thunderbird Motel Project from its inception almost 11 years ago, I’ve seen people come, and people go. What I’ve observed as a resident, is that some people who are given housing, come in off the street, but without proper rules, support, and counselling, they continue their addictions, in a safe, warm, and affordable room.

There is a lot more to solving addictions than just providing shelter, but housing first is a good beginning.

My husband and I struggled with our addictions while living at the Thunderbird. However, for the past five years, we have remained clean, no more addictive drugs. We have become useful members of our little community and live a much more satisfying life now.

On that note I’d like to share a quote from a wonderfully informative book, “In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts — Close Encounters with Addictions” by Dr. Gabor Mate. Dr. Mate has had a family practice, worked as a palliative care physician, and worked for decades with the addicted men and women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“Addicts are locked into addiction, not only by their painful past and distressing present, but equally by their bleak view of the future. They cannot envision the real possibility of sobriety, of a life governed by values rather than immediate survival needs and by desperation to escape physical and mental suffering. They are unable to develop compassion towards themselves and their bodies while they are considered outcasts, hunted as enemies and treated like human


“A major factor in addiction that medical and social policies must take into account is…stress. If we want to support peoples’ potential for healthy transformation, we must cease to impose debilitating stress on their already burdened existence. Recall that uncertainty, isolation, loss of control, and conflict are the major triggers for stress, and that stress is the most predictable factor in maintaining addiction and triggering relapse.”

“In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts – Close Encounters with Addiction”

By Dr. Gabor Mate

Pg 300, Vintage Canada Edition 2012 Random House of Canada

Deborah MacBean

Hope Standard