Opinion: Alternatives to urban drug ghettos

Options are out there for dealing with homelessness and addiction

My recent columns on B.C.’s struggle with the growing westward migration of transients have produced responses that fall mainly into two groups.

The largest is people relieved that somebody is questioning the urban media narrative. That’s the one where drifters, drug addicts, welfare shoppers and thieves are the victims, and working people whose hard-earned communities are being degraded are the problem because of their selfish, uncaring attitudes.

Then there are readers so marinated in our nanny-state education, media and political system they object to anything other than a big-government response. They tend to ask, what’s your solution, Tom?

As someone who has lost one relative to heroin addiction and almost lost another, I reflect on the history of successful addiction treatment. That is one of detox and abstinence.

That’s why I oppose the failed model of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where resources are poured into concentrated housing and “harm reduction” that perpetuate addiction, handouts and helplessness. Housing Minister Rich Coleman is rolling this out in other communities, in what I fear is an effort to paper over the problem for an election year.

The Globe and Mail recently profiled a methamphetamine addict enrolled at Onsite, the belated treatment addition to Vancouver’s Insite supervised injection site. It was his fifth try, which may have something to do with the fact that when he walks outside he is in the middle of Canada’s biggest street drug bazaar.

Contrast that with a facility called Baldy Hughes, a therapeutic community 30 km outside Prince George. It’s a working farm, designed to provide a year-long program of abstinence-based therapy and meaningful work.

It uses the traditional 12-step program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, with peer support and group therapy.

There’s a greenhouse for winter farming, livestock to tend and the residents have designed and built a new horse stable. There’s also a beekeeping project. Residents can complete their high school education, take first aid training and learn basic computer skills.

What they can’t do is leave unescorted during their treatment program. They can’t bring drugs, alcohol, weapons or phones with them.

It’s a costly program, with a small number of spaces available on referral from B.C.’s social development ministry. Others can finance it with the help of medical employment insurance.

I mention this not to suggest it is a solution for every community, but to compare it with what the B.C. government is spending millions on.

A news event was arranged to greet the first resident moving from Victoria’s squalid downtown tent camp to a refurbished nursing home. And who was the poster child for this project, hand-picked by the agency that runs the growing network of shelters in the area?

He described himself as a former Edmonton resident who was hitch-hiking around, going from shelter to shelter and ending up camped in the squat. He was impressed by the tidy room with three meals a day he was being given, in a “low barrier” facility where booze and drugs are brought in, no questions asked.

What he was really looking forward to, in addition to accommodations, was an opportunity to kick back and play his favourite video game. That would be Grand Theft Auto, where your character runs around stealing cars, escaping police and meeting with criminal gangs. It’s popular with adolescents, which these days means anyone under 30.

This is where your tax dollars are going. Waves of people come in, with key trouble spots being communities on the major highways coming into the Lower Mainland.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There were 164 more overdose calls in Greater Victoria in 2020 than in 2019. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria sees increase in overdose calls in 2020

Official says most deaths are in the suburbs, in garages and bedrooms

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on Greater Victoria nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of local hospital nurses

Lisa Love, left, and Dana Livingstone of the Wildlife Advocates Collective want to establish wildlife corridors along Sooke Road. The group wants to start with the new highway reconstruction project between Connie Road and Glinz Lake Road in Sooke. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
How creating wildlife crossings can help deer, bears – and even amphibians

Dana Livingstone knows the dangers wild animals can pose to drivers on… Continue reading

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, updates British Columbians about COVID-19 at a press conference earlier this week. (B.C. Government image)
B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today

Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 26

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(B.C. government photo)
POLL: Would you like to see restrictions on travel to B.C. from other provinces?

With a host of more virulent strains of COVID-19 appearing across the… Continue reading

Flowers poke through the snow in Courtenay as the area got a taste of winter weather this week. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Vancouver Island not out of the winter woods quite yet: meteorologist

“It’s winter; we’ve got to get through it together.”

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.

Most Read