Moving people around is not going to make homelessness go away. (THE NEWS/files)

Letter: ‘The homeless are human beings’

We need harm reduction in safe, clean shelters that house people with addictions.

Editor, The News:

Re: Rally in Maple Ridge against supporting housing and shelter.

In dealing with solutions to homelessness in Maple Ridge, I wonder if we could all take two deep breaths and do the following.

Recognize that the homeless are human beings. They are human beings who may be sick, mentally and physically wounded — but they are not morally-weak human waste. The homeless are without a decent, safe, reliable place to live often because they are unable to find living spaces that suit their circumstances. Others are simply and suddenly without a home.

About 20 per cent of the homeless are youth who may have been forced to leave home too early due to abuse or neglect. The LGBTQ2S in this group are overrepresented at about 40 per cent of that youth population. They are not yet ready to care for themselves and homelessness in this group contributes to further abuse, mental illness and addiction.

They need support and care in the community.

Roughly 26 per cent of the population in Canadian shelters are women, often put in this situation due to violence at home for themselves and their children. Would any woman actually want to stay in a shelter, let alone a tent? Like youth, women in shelters are at greatly increased risk of violence, sexual exploitation and abuse.

Recognize that as a wealthy, western society, we have a moral and financial obligation (through the taxes we pay into governments at all levels) to care for those who are unable to manage in the mainstream. We need to begin to see the homeless as human beings once again. They are someone’s daughters or sons, sisters or brothers.

As a community, we need to consider harm reduction in safe, clean shelters that house people with addictions. We need to keep them and the neighbourhoods in which they live safe. No needles outside. No dealers lurking around. Safe injection with supervision indoors. That requires resident health care, as well as law enforcement support.

We need safe, clean shelters that protect women and children, as well as youth from being prayed upon and hurt. They need support to step up to homes they can rely on.

We need to give folks who can’t manage financially as way to climb back up and feel a strong sense of belonging and contributing in our society.

No want wants the homeless in Maple Ridge. But they’re here, whether we like it or not. Moving them around is not going to make homelessness go away. And sticking our heads in the sand and saying it can’t be near us is making the problem much worse as we shame and ostracize people who have a right to feel a sense of belonging and dignity, even when they’re ill.

If we do it right, it will be better for everyone in Maple Ridge, and it won’t harm those near the shelters.

Casey Hrynkow

Maple Ridge

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