Edited the blog due to people who think I am saying we don’t need more housing. I worked for many years as a Regional Councillor on increasing housing.
Meth and fentanyl are relatively new and highly addictive synthetic drugs. Easy to make and easy to take. While we were only concerned about the pandemic, the epidemic predicted by Michael Parkinson (presently running for Regional Councillor) of the late Waterloo Region Crime Prevention has raged out of control. Last night at the House of Friendship dinner, John Neufeld showed the audience project after project, both House of Friendship, Regional and Non-profits like the Working Centre being built in Waterloo Region. He asked how many in the huge audience knew about these projects. Very few raised their hands. All we know is the tent cities in Victoria Park and at Weber and Victoria. These tent cities are a direct result of the fentanyl and meth addiction crisis.
Edit: I am not saying all homelessness is caused by addiction. My 37 year old child has lived with me for the last year in my small bungalow after his marriage broke up. The grandkids live here half time. I am well aware of the housing situation.
How do we solve this crisis? Certainly police involvement in tracking down the dealers and cartels that manufacture and distribute these drugs is key. It is hard as the drugs are made from common ingredients. Not so easy is looking at the upstream causes of this crisis.
Edit: Government policies that do not fund counselling, mental health services, addiction services and support for the homeless. Do not fund enough supportive housing are also a problem.
Joe Roberts, the Skid Row CEO was the guest speaker at the dinner. Addicted and homeless for 15 years on on the streets of Vancouver, in desperation he finally accepted help from an organization like House of Friendship. He was able to overcome his demons and become successful in business. Now he dedicates his life to the eradication of homelessness.
What struck me about Joe’s story were the events of his early life. For the first 9 years, he had a loving father and a mother who was able to stay at home. Then one night his father died. His mother had no job and no way to care for her three children. She remarried quickly to a man who turned out to be abusive and belittling to Joe. At fifteen, Joe found drugs that numbed his fear, anxiety and sense of inadequacy. The downward spiral began.
How can we help kids not get involved with drugs? Edit: How do we increase supports for women and children fleeing abusive situations or in need of daycare and job training.
Today we have organizations like Anselma House where women can flee from abusive relationships. The complication of our society means they sometimes return to their abuser. Also, organizations like Anselma are always fundraising and working to have enough spaces for the abused to be safe. Second stage housing, job training and counselling are key yet chronically underfunded.
In the City of Waterloo, particularly, there are only two community centres, Sunnydale and Erb St. run by House of Friendship and Carizon. My church, All Saints, is building a nonreligious community centre for Lakeshore North. Unlike the cities of Kitchener and Cambridge, Waterloo does not have community centres. These are places where kids like Joe can go to feel safe while they do homework or participate in various programs. Trained staff can help them through what is happening in their lives.
Finally, I would like to speak about a fantastic organization called Adventure for Change. Run on a shoe string, this organization helps kids and families, many refugees from the trauma of war, with various programs. It is presently housed for free on a floor of the Parkside Plaza in Waterloo. However the generousity of the plaza owners ends in a month or two. Adventure for Change will then have to pay $300,000 a year for accommodation. Like most upstream organizations, they exist on fundraising and donations. If they close their doors, the drug dealers will be rubbing their hands together.
The housing crisis isn’t about not enough homes for the homeless, it is about the lack of support, both government and private, for organizations that are working at the difficult task of raising and supporting kids, women, and families in crisis. Edit: I am not saying that even with many projects, we do not need more affordable housing. We need it. We must do better.