June 24th, 2024

Collective action needed to deal with addiction, homelessness

By Lethbridge Herald on December 17, 2022.


A.W. Shier is quite right, of course. The lawyers defending these dysfunctional criminals are doing their jobs for money and lots of it; not some higher calling to make society better for everyone. 

If they truly did care, then as a professional group yielding their considerable collective political power and influence on a national level, they would lobby government vigorously at all levels to make effective changes. 

Changes to how criminals, especially those with addiction and mental healthdriven criminality, are dealt with, beginning obviously with removing them from their dysfunctional daily environment which does nothing for them except provide the criminal opportunities and substance availability to continue their downward spiral.

Various human rights groups strongly advocate for better treatment and more understanding of these tragic individuals which is basically honourable but they tend to place much blame for it all on what they see as heavy-handed and lack of compassionate treatment by police.

I disagree. Frustration experienced by all types of first responders dealing daily with this societal tragedy and its related debris must leave them almost hopelessly disillusioned. 

Remember that this daily dysfunction is nothing new; it has been evolving for several decades. 

Those individuals tasked with servicing calls from the increasingly angry and rightfully outraged public have been trying to communicate the growing seriousness of the addiction and resulting mental illness and homelessness for years now but it seems no one who can initiate change is listening to them.

I think we know how these critics of police would fare if they were the ones in the role of emergency responder day after day, year after year, feeling tasked with making a positive difference while experiencing ever increasing criticism. 

It is time for all groups involved to get together, stop the finger pointing and off-loading of blame and work to the common goal of creating adequate treatment centres, both open and secure as required, to cure addiction.

I include the National Association of Chiefs of Police in this initiative; their collective voice has been very understated for many years. 

This change would cost billions nationally of course, but when you consider what the problem is costing the taxpayer now, we are wasting this amount and more anyway. Time to get organized and get something in return. 

Jack Dodds 

Sylvan Lake

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Citi Zen

Guaranteed to fail, miserably. Throwing more money at the problem won’t achieve anything positive. Just penalizes the embattled taxpayer.


Sorry Southern Albertan but I completely disagree. The pathway you suggest has already proven to be a complete failure.
The greater Vancouver DTES is under 20,000 people, with not all taking supports or need housing and not all addicts of course, but they have been pumping over $360 million annually into housing and social supports with more housing needed, more encampments, more crime, more fatal overdoses and more addicts arriving.
There have been several plans to end homelessness and several Alberta cities have attempted to implement them, but they failed, The more housing you provide, the more people arrive, including other communities shipping their problems to those cities. Lethbridge could fill several highrises and there still would be more homeless.
That along with harm reduction have been proven to be complete failures and the biggest losers are the almost 200 who die from overdoses each month in BC now. You can quote and show all the studies you want, but the best experiment has been operating in BC for 20 years and it shows it doesn’t work.
Lethbridge is unique to many other cities across Canada because we live next to the biggest Indigenous reserve in Canada with 3 nearby reserves in close proximity that impact our city. Addiction issues have always been problems in these communities.
Most of the Lethbridge issues that cost the most are from the impacts from the addictions, the costs to support the programs, non-profits, increased police and EMS budgets,
The Lethbridge taxpayer alone pays over $10 million per year because of the issues and federal and provincial tax dollars spent because of the issues are over $20 million easily. Currently we are making many of the same mistakes and the costs will only snowball.
Solve the cause of the issues and there would be no need for all the non-profits, housing issues, high police and EMS costs, large soup kitchens and even the food banks would be reduced back to pre 2015 levels.
LIves would be saved!

Last edited 1 year ago by ewingbt
Southern Albertan

Granted, it would take a herculean effort to deal effectively with what now is an acknowledged hurculean problem. It has gone on for too long.
Maybe, one of the best ways to be proactive is the education of up and coming generations of kids, in both blue and white collar professions. One of the biggest factors in homelessness is poverty. If education and employment are the goals, it could be helpful in the long run. We should, not, be scrimping on education, including postsecondary…of which the underfunding of both in Alberta right now, is a huge problem.

Say What . . .

Addiction is the biggest problem on our streets right now, not education.
Your education plan is a long term plan. Thousands more will die while an education plan is implemented over years.
Action is needed now.

Southern Albertan

And yet, ewingbt is saying below, that not not all are addicts on the streets, nor, actually being homeless. What model in Canada has been effective for addiction, the solution for which also appears to be long term? Has the model for addiction in BC been effective? It appears that housing is not a solution either, or, is it because there is great resistance to housing the homeless. Action? What should it be?

Say What . . .

I don’t know about ewingbt but I can tell you the best model is in the US, not Canada. It is against drug use and charge those caught in the SE parts. Those charged are given the choice of jail or treatment.
I can’t remember all the details after reviewing it after someone presented the concept on this site, but it is about 1 and 1/2 years, with upgrading, housing and job placement with oversight by counsellors. I think it has about a 85% rate of success, mid 80’s area anyways.
I also know that there are many people that will live off the taxpayer if they can. in the 1960’s-1970’s unemployment insurance was abused badly. You could work for 3 months and live off of unemployment insurance the rest of the year. Many abused it and it destroyed a workforce back then, creating chronic abuse of social services for decades after.
In the late 1970’s early 1980’s I was at a competition in Alberta and met some people from BC at our camp. They were living on social services, travelling the country, but in the winter they returned to Vancouver, because of all the services offered their and to keep their social services active.
I later made note of that and found people do in fact go where the best services are offered when they choose not to work.
No one is against housing the truly needy! Many on the streets and those in encampments want to live without any rules or responsibilities and many of the addicts have been given housing, but destroy it and are evicted. Do we build concrete bunkers that can’t be destroyed? Addiction and pyschological issues must be dealt with and part of that is getting people back into society, working and housing at that point.

Last edited 1 year ago by Say What . . .

I will try to answer some of those questions briefly. There is a group that are the criminals who deal drugs, pimp, chop bikes, broker stolen goods, break and enter, steal, etc. maybe 100 -120. There are some that have destroyed their brains with drugs and can’t hold a job and are anti-social. Some are running from abusive families while others refuse to live under rules. Some have been through treatment but can’t find a job and pay for housing. Others who actually are there to experience it and others who can’t do drugs or alcohol on the reserve, so they come to Lethbridge do to so.
Many are not true addicted, but want to fog their minds not to remember life experiences . . . and other reasons.
I haven’t seen a truly effective model in Canada to answer you.
I talked with Becky Haas in Tennessee after she started a successful program there in 2013 that spawned several other treatment programs, many of which won awards.
Police are against drug use and they charge offenders. They give the offender a choice, correctional facility or addiction treatment, but they must complete the full treatment regiment or serve the full sentence in a jail.
They go to detox, treatment using several methods one of which is taken from PTSD treatment, as well as ACE’s, etc., relapse training, school upgrading, there is job placement and housing if needed as well. This whole process lasts for about 2 years, but part of it is in a half-way house type setting, before patient has housing set up for them where they will take over the responsibility of their own housing costs, etc. They use a lot of volunteers in this program to offset costs.
We do have many of these programs in place right now, including drug courts.
Many are not aware that we had similar involuntary treatment programs set up for alcohol addition treatment where the courts would order a person into treatment at a facility and if the refused it would be jail. They had to complete the treatment and it they didn’t, had to serve the complete sentence in jail.
People still die from alcohol, but this drug crisis is killing exponentially more, sadly.
The coddlers are against this form of treatment, but even BC is considering it.
Many of the people who make money off of this including some non-profits don’t want a successful program, screaming police state or draconian force.
People are not resistant to housing the truly homeless. The BC model has failed, so yes to that question. Billions have been poured into the Vancouver DTES over the years, yet the issue spread like cancer.
Too many young lives have been lost!

Last edited 1 year ago by ewingbt

As time passes, organized crime grows, embedding deeper into the community, making it harder to end it all.
We need more effective treatment beds for addictions and mental health. To date there are still long waits or high priced treatment no one can afford of $50,000 or more for one person, no refunds if they walk out part way.
Most of the crime downtown, the increased policing/EMS costs, extra contractors needed, extra non-profits supports, extra graffiti clean-up and clean-up costs, D.O.T., the Watch, extra security all point to the drug addiction issue if you put them all on a white board, drawing a line from each one to addiction. That is the main denominator. Policing will be needed as the head of the snake is removed, making sure the criminal organizes are not bringing in ‘new addicts’ they have ‘recruited’ from other areas, other communities. We have seen this many times!
Don’t forget, this is how organized crime makes their money, illegal drugs, human trafficking, weapons trade, car-theft rings, etc.
There needs to be collaboration to make it work!


Some great points! Mr. Dodds how many years did you live in Lethbridge before moving to Sylvan Lake? Lethbridge has many unique issues here that do not impact other areas similarly.
I little in the middle of the mess in my city, I have been personally impacted in many ways, including vehicle damage from break and enter, assaults, threats, closely monitoring the changes in my city since 2015 when the native gangs were fighting for territory downtown with 5 stabbings within 3 weeks within 2 blocks of my residense. I have researched areas across North America, speaking with one of the most successfull programs set up in the southern US, as well as with various levels of government.
If you want to know what NOT to do . . . look how BC has dealt with the issues. Canadian taxpayer dollars have been burned up in massive money pits with not success. Sadly, not much has been spent on effective mental health and addiction treatment.
All are not addicts on the streets and all are not truly homeless. only about 100 are criminals that refuse to respect any laws, respect the community or the citizens.
I have worked security dealing with the homeless and addicts every shift, needing to call police and EMS and endless amount of times.
Our police have been understaffed for several years, and are burned out from the increased calls stemming from the homeless/addiction issues.
Fire/EMS is also burned out. The Alberta Government Substance use surveillance system data is no where near accurate, with actual EMS responses in Leithbridge closer to 100 per week instead of their 15-25.https://healthanalytics.alberta.ca/SASVisualAnalytics/?reportUri=%2Freports%2Freports%2F1bbb695d-14b1-4346-b66e-d401a40f53e6&sectionIndex=0&sso_guest=true&reportViewOnly=true&reportContextBar=false&sas-welcome=false
You can’t fix the problem if you do not have all the facts. Alberta has realized that the BC model isn’t working and have been leaning towards effective treatment models but Lethbridge appears to be in the middle of a war of what is classified as effective treatment. The Indigenous believe their sweat lodges and indigenous ways are the answer, even though they have a high failure rate. The highest number of fatal overdoses are Indigenous, but they want to argue and put up roadblocks.
Meanwhile, our first responders are stuck in the middle. I watch multiple overdose response per day just to the Park N Ride bus terminal which appears to be now shared as a shelter for the addicts. I used to work security their but removed myself from the site, refusin to no longer work at that post because of the policies that allowed a public building being used by ‘essential workers’ to get to work during COVID being also used as a warming shelter for the addicts who used the washrooms to do drugs. Most of the addicts refused to wear mask or wear them properly so the public was in danger of contracting the highly contagious airborne disease as I did while performing duties.
Now that is just an one example of how security had to deal with this issue. Police/first responders deal with worse conditions many times a day. EMS revives an overdose patient after giving CPR/Narcan and the patient comes up swinging and swearing at them, as well saying you took away my ‘high’.
I have witnessed multiple times people stripped partially bathing in the washrooms, who felt it was their right to do so and no one was going to stop them, some would spend a couple of hours in the washroom, bathing, putting on makeup and doing drugs prior to going out to the streets to work as prostitutes. No concern for someone entering inhaling the drugs or any of the communicable disease they may be sharing.
We expect too much from the people who protect us and are there in our worst moments!
I hope that gives you a little more insight of our city, not just what you have read! We still have a chance to stop this and take back our city, but leadership is still making some bad decisions,

Dennis Bremner

DTES Vancouver and Seattle are prime examples of chaos created by a lack of centralized leadership. People should understand the motivation of others before “assuming” it is either spiritual or righteous. When you have 1200 non profits in Vancouver, and 1600 in Seattle it soon makes you realize that not everyone who wears a Crucifix or Yamulkes means a good heart.
The ONLY way these numbers exist is a dog eat dog fight over pieces of the Provincial/Federal Pie. So the first thing one has to do is separate the appearance of Mother Theresa at work from the “business side of a nonprofit”. The reason why there is such an avid defense of any nonprofit that works to assist the poor is because of those frontline workers. Most are unpaid, have honorable intention and work for the good of humanity. That’s the camouflage that the nonprofit uses to allow themselves the opportunity to cut throat there way into as much of the pie as they can get.
You may think this is a cruel understanding and not all nonprofits should be categorized the same way, that is true, however, when you have 1600 the pendulum has already swung the wrong way. It is reasonable to suspect that if there were 10, and you had one rogue nonprofit in that 10, then my categorization would be unjust. But, when you have 1600 you can safely argue, that its a feeding frenzy for money, and that is all.
The two cities mentioned are not exclusive, this happens everywhere in the world, where ever the opportunity rises. So you get the now infamous $150,000 per drug addict treatment program that has been bastardized to create the trough that they all feed from.
To give you an example, our past SCS was not an exception, it was the rule for SCSs in Canada. SCSs can be integrated into society without society even knowing they exist, but there is no money in it for the nonprofits in Canada so they created their own approach supported by the medical community who then sanction it so they too can feed at the trough.
In Europe the SCS is a small building, no store face to speak of, in a side street in the community. It has one door in, and one door out. There are normally 2 workers. One to analyze the drug content to ensure it is safe and the other to watch over their “client”. The room is santized and very hospital like. Conversation is kept to a minimum and there is absolutely no advertising for treatment services etc etc.
Why is that? Its easy, Europeans discovered long ago you never mix Rehab with Addiction. You never mix the two, it confuses the client and negates the effectiveness. If you need wounds healed, you go to the rehab side of the system. You do not do this in an SCS or adjacent to the SCS. “Clients” are not allowed to loiter outside of a European SCS. In fact they are told if they do they will be picked up by the Police. So you would never be able to find an SCS in Copenhagen unless you are part of the drug crowd, even if you wanted too.
Now look at what we did, 177 employees and a Clubhouse. Canadians are stupid, Experts are stupid, nonprofits are stupid, everyone is driven by money and the secondary is to help the addicted.
So pardon my annoyance at these people but I have seen it done the right way without killing a downtown. I can tell you now, the same uncaring conflicted and stupid people exist in Lethbridge and after we become another Seattle we will get the dumbfounded proclaiming “wah happened, not my fault” ?
Wake up Lethbridge, you are allowing conflicted experts to ruin your city!

Signed Doomsday Dennis

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner