In recent weeks, attempts to build housing for the homeless in both Langley and Vancouver have attracted intense local opposition.
The opposition always centers on fear.
Protest signs and public statements begin and end with safety. Children are often mentioned. Needles in parks, crack pipes, and crime rates come up again and again.
The overall impression is that there is nothing quite so dangerous as a homeless person.
I know people are scared, and I don’t want to insult anyone. But having met and interviewed many homeless people over the years, it’s hard for me to take these fears entirely seriously.
First, let’s talk about the mental illness.
We need mental health treatment for the homeless? Some of them, yes. Write your MLA for more treatment beds, I’ll sign, too. That does not mean locking them up in asylums.
How about drugs?
Are many homeless people addicts? Yes, and they’ll often tell you straight out that drugs or alcohol were a big part of the reason they’re on the streets.
On the other hand, you also know addicts and drug users with homes and jobs. You just don’t know they’re addicts.
We can see this in the horrific overdose death records. The vast majority who die, die in their own homes.
Drug dealing wouldn’t be such a lucrative vocation if you only sold to the homeless.
Finally, we need to talk about crime. Almost all the crime in this community, from petty crimes to murders, are committed by people with homes.
Being homeless is, as the RCMP will tell you, not a crime. Camping in a park is a minor violation, no more serious than if you let the weeds in your front yard grow too high.
How do we solve the problems of the homeless? Drug and mental health treatment are part of that. Easier to administer both to people with somewhere to lay their heads at night.
It is not a crime to be homeless. It is a crime that we allowed so many people to become homeless.