Letter: Langley City’s homelessness problem must be addressed

Editor: Homelessness in our society is a problem that we both ignore and acknowledge. Somehow, we live side by side with the tragedy that is the socially challenged in our society.

As a long-time resident and businessperson in Langley City, I have observed this situation and fretted about it for too long.

I have had discussions and confrontations with homeless persons; I have had my building broken into more than once, and on one occasion entered with the police to see a knife-wielding individual camped out in one of my empty offices.

However, that is not the important story.

The reality on the streets of downtown Langley City is that we, as a society, have allowed our fellow citizens who have significant challenges in their lives, to display their desperation on street corners, in alleyways and in our parks.

Many of us become annoyed at this turn of events, others have had it affect their businesses and property values. Still it continues.

For some reason, we let this section of society suffer in front of us. It is quite puzzling what we can do, or should I say not do, to our fellow human beings.

I can guarantee that if these groupings of desperation were hungry and desperate dogs, we would not tolerate it.

We would find homes and solutions. Our benevolent nature would insist.

Sometimes we say, out of sight, out of mind, but we cannot even use this adage as an excuse, for the individuals are displayed in all their deprived frustration, in front of us on a daily basis.

Are crimes committed? Yes. Are unhealthy situations occurring? Yes. Needles are found in many public places, and living hand-to-mouth in an on-street community cannot be healthy.

So what do we do?

I am only an observer of human nature, but it has seemed to me for some time that society must take a two-pronged approach.

First, we must decrease our tolerance for homeless individuals to live on our sidewalks, our parks and public and private property. None of the above are adequate or were created to provide overflow living rooms for people who might not otherwise have a roof over their heads.

Further, the use of stolen property, like shopping carts and the like, cannot be blindly allowed as it is today.

Tolerance to these living conditions must be reduced to the minimum allowable level.

However, that is not the end of it. We must, every one of us, through our governments, societies, churches or individual initiatives, declare war on our indifference.

We must reach into our individual and collective pockets to provide the assistance necessary to prevent and resolve this insult to our morality. I am not referring to handing out money to those standing on the medians, but if we wish to assist this segment of society directly, and indirectly help ourselves through a healthier society, then we must have our leadership in all these groups recognize the difficulties and step up to the plate to find worthwhile and value-filled answers.

It seems to me that if we address the issues of desperation that are created by mental illness, poverty, drugs and alcohol, then we will be fulfilling nothing more than would be expected of us as members of a collective peaceful society.

If we don’t assist, then don’t blame the “desperates” on the street. If they could help themselves, they would.

We need to co-ordinate housing, counselling, appropriate medication, food, clothing and anything else that can help them regain their self worth and live in our community with some degree of dignity.

None of the above comes without a price tag, but it is a price we cannot afford not to pay.

If we do not approach these issues with open and objective minds, we just need to look in the mirror and ask, why not?

No one of us can create the perfect society, but any one of us can help to provide a basic level of existence and health for those who have faltered at the barrier of difficult challenges on their road to life in Langley City.

Bryce Jeffery