By Letter to the Editor on September 13, 2018.
Last week I spent a day in Medicine Hat. What I discovered was a vibrant and clean downtown. What I didn’t see were people passed out, taking drugs, or any human waste. I also didn’t see anyone asking for money or food.
I saw countless agencies offering help to those in need. Not handouts, but help in the form of housing solutions, life skill and job training, resume assistance, job placement and addictions counselling and support.
When I got home I looked into this. Medicine Hat made a commitment a few years ago to eradicate homelessness. It seemed to be an almost impossible task but they did it and have maintained this status for years.
The situation in Lethbridge with the injection site has brought out into the public a problem that has existed here for a long time. I no longer enjoy going downtown and have had friends forced to relocate their business away from downtown because they don’t feel safe.
The solution to this problem must address more than the problem of the injection site. Most addicts don’t choose to become addicts, it starts with other issues and they turn to drugs to escape the sad reality of their situation.
To address the problems there has to be a network of easily accessible agencies offering help for individuals so they have a chance at recovery. I am not suggesting handouts for these people. However, they need to have support to help them get off the streets and rehabilitate.
Cities in the States have offered homeless people jobs working for the City itself. Individuals are paid $10 per hour and given housing and meals in the program. They have been successful and the large majority of participants get job training and move on to successful lives.
The cost of these programs is less than what we are facing. When we are now having the police suggest we have volunteers in the community patrolling to keep our streets safe we have tipped the scale of what is reasonable.
Let’s get to the root of the problems and stop offering poison to people who are already disadvantaged. I would invite Mayor Spearman and our city council to meet with the Medicine Hat mayor and council. They have cleaned up their city and it is working.
Hats off to the Hat.
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