0923 - The inhabitants of downtown Nanaimo’s illegal tent encampment have been given three weeks to vacate 1 Port Drive – failing that, the city is empowered to clean them out.
Oh great, problem solved! Right?
Not so fast with
the rental vans and trucks, exactly where will they go?
There’s a lot of questions about how many are truly homeless and how many are outside political agitators. It’s infested with drug consumption and trafficking, which of course leads
to mental health issues.
Loading them, and those from other sites across the province, into trucks and vans and moving them out doesn’t solve anything. Giving temporary squatting assurance in provincial parks is still the same problem, only at
a different location. Now you see them, now you don’t.
This seems to be the attitude of politicians, just move them out where we don’t see them and don’t have to deal with the real issue. This needs a solution rather than the merry
go round of locations, politicians know they haven’t provided any solutions. As a matter of fact, they are running around merrily handing out money for pet projects with major political benefit to themselves. They seem happy with well-meaning local advocates
who are not really knowledgeable about the root problem and push for action by local government.
So what should the province, and Ottawa do?
The first step is accepting that the number one problem is the national drug and mental health epidemic.
Building facilities without stemming the addictions problem does not lessen the situation one iota. So that’s where to start.
Saying the cost is prohibitive is simply an excuse for inaction. They should have acted a lot earlier but they kept their
heads in the sand, hoping the problem would go away. It hasn’t gone away, and it won’t go away.
There are many levels of needed action, starting at the ground level, it has to be an all-out battle against addictions and mental health. That
would necessitate some legislative changes to allow forced treatment. Current “rights” legislation protects them from involuntary treatment and cure when they just worry about their next fix, not about treatment. Our society will likely never totally
overcome the illicit drug scourge, but helping even some would take them off the streets.
Treatment involves being kept in a facility where withdrawal services also include a roof over their heads, three square meals a day, all medical needs and a warm
dry bed. That’s not a guarantee they won’t become users in the future, statistics prove that.
Everyone is touting a housing solution, but that is hollow. If you skip that first step the actions will be futile, as it has already demonstrated.
After treatment the next stage has to be ready to kick in. You can’t just “cure” addicts and then shove them out onto the street to fend for themselves. This is where the housing element comes in, with ongoing support services to lessen a
return to the streets, and more drug use. Simply slapping up houses and not instituting the first stage is a waste of resources, money down the drain.
When levels of government argue they can’t afford the costs of such programs they are putting
a lesser value on some human beings. At what point do they make the decision that some lives are not worth saving?
We can’t skip the first stage – treatment – and then hope that more housing will cure what’s wrong. We’re
beyond bandaid solutions, we’re in the full hemorrhage stage, and bleeding out. Where’s the tourniquet?
We welcome your views, please click Merv@nanaimonet.com to send your response.