With all due respect to the Richard, I needed to respond to this letter I just read in Times Columnist: Crisis-driven fixes won’t erase homelessness”.

I would have loved to come to such a farm when I was coming out of detox back when I hit bottom and needed rehab BAD!  I just cannot stand by without responding to what seems to be an attack on one model, Harm Reduction, which has four pillars and one fo them is detox on demand and rehab.  These are aspects of harm reduction.  I am a total supporter of harm reduction and abstinence helped me earlier on.  The abstinence model does not work for everyone.  Its critical that we have some unity and support each other’s work, to continue to do so as I believe we have been for years.

I also want to support Lisa Helps call for Mayors across Canada to put up a tent in support of the need for social housing to be built, I take this further and ask that we all, on behalf of Canadians who are working poor and poor,  go and tent with the Mayors in solidarity and help inspire Social Housing at 30% of income be built!  We can create a LOT of jobs!

Bravo to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps for putting homelessness back on Victoria’s political agenda. It’s been a critical issue for years and council’s efforts to wrestle with difficult solutions are to be applauded.”

Lisa Helps, to be clear, supports Social Housing at 30 % of income. Its what the feds stopped doing and the provinces mostly did not take up the slack with the transfer payments that came to them from feds!

The solution is social housing and I agree with Martin Luther King’s work before he was murdered, a guaranteed livable income, also known as a Basic Income is the solution many now support. UNTIL SOCIAL HOUSING IS BUILT we MUST HELP FOLKS, and harm reduction models are helpful in the possibility of unifying us.

People want more than what society offers. A reality most in society do not want to hear. We can use Mini Tent Cities and Micro Housing to help ease the burden of our homeless AS WE INSURE SOCIAL HOUSING BE BUILT, WE CAN DO THIS IF WE CHOOSE TO.

Have you not read Dr. Gabor Mate? He speaks clearly, eloquently and with great experience about harm reduction, what you write here is contradicting as heck.

“Harm reduction is regarded internationally (by Nimrod politicians and narrow minded folks who ignorantly repeat mixed messaging and make themselves look like they DO NOT want to change the messed up economic system) as a Band-Aid solution (Again, Harm Reduction includes Rehab and detox so, you’re shooting your own foot here Richard.  Harm Reduction services often refer their clients to rehab, you can network with rather than criticise and divide.) Indeed, harm-reduction solutions are seen as essentially “harm acceptance,” (again, only by those who are taken in and repeat false teachings) a perpetuation of a “welfare state,” (the only welfare state we have is the one whereby corporations GET and we the people Get Shafted) …when the most desirable focus should be on full and meaningful reintegration into society”.

Not all agree actually, this society is a bloody MESS that needs shifting and many of us want total economic shift to one that is equitable, does not destroy environment and is not into criminalising the poor and holding onto this ‘I can fix you poor’ mentality.

“This is key, because it is about believing in the individual, even if that individual does not yet believe in himself or herself.”

Harm Reduction helps many, not all, just as rehab helps many and not all

“Of course, it is better that a person injects with a clean syringe, than an infected one. But what next?”

Better health as a result of clean needles; Community building happens in that exchange as folks are empowered to be a part of community and to be a part of a needle exchange, not always dependent on workers and their 9-5 jobs.

As we work with folks where they are, they often get healthier, some use illicit drugs and are part of society till they die, others stop, some take years to heal. IF WE HAD HOMES FOR ALL and DECRIMINILISED illicit drugs, we’d not have the crisis we are in now!

“Of course, it is good to give someone a meal. But what next?”

How about a home they can afford and help building community for them within their own communities.

“Of course, offer a cot on a cold and freezing night. But what next?”

A home! Until they are built support mini tent cities, like the ones in Oregon whereby folks chose NOT TO GO INTO SHELTERS or into the sick building offered. Not all homeless are drug or alcohol addicted.  The steering committee for Micro Housing are hearing from a good portion of homeless that they want to live in their own Micro Housing Village, many are not on welfare as, they think this system is a mess, and IT IS! These villages often become places whereby folks get empowered to lobby governments and, in my dreams and visions, get HOMES BUILT!

More and more are sick of society and lets face it, WE NEED SYSTEMIC CHANGE FAST OR WE ALL MAY BURN, WE HAVE GOT SOME ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS TO DEAL WITH AND YET, HERE WE ARE CONFUSED STILL ABOUT SOCIAL HOUSING/SYSTEMIC CHANGE/BANDAID SOLUTIONS VERSUS REAL CHANGE WHEN MOST OF US CANNOT TAKE RISKS NEEDED TO INSURE SYSTEMIC CHANGE OCCURS and, even when we do the oppressive system can make it difficult and sometimes impossible to create healthy living areas, I know you know about this systemic oppression at the farm.)

“Of course, giving a person a room is a good idea. But then what?”

I agree that shelters are not wanted by most and are unhealthy, so, run your program for those who want it, and many do, and, SUPPORT THE BUILDING OF DIVERSE SOCIAL HOUSING IN COMMUNITY MINDED WAYS, BUILD SIMILAR TO MICRO HOUSING VILLAGES, MANY PEOPLE WANT COMMUNITY NOT A BOX, IN A BUILDING MANAGED BY A POWER TRIPPER ALL SEPERATED TRYING TO PAY BILLS, MANY WANT COMMUNITY KITCHENS, COMMUNITY GARDENS, LEED STYLE PASSIVE HOUSES WITH SOLAR NOT THE MILDEW MOLDY MESSES THAT NEEDS TAKING DOWN AND REBUILDING, NOT PLACES LIKE THE OLD APPLE APARTMENT NOW CALLED FISGARD APARTMENTS WHICH ARE UP THERE WITH THE WORST SLUM APARTMENTS. As far as jobs, people want meaning full work so lets BUILD BUILD BUILD.

“Detox? Detox is only one-millionth of the solution. Camping in parks? Criminalizing those who are ill? What next?”

Exactly, what are next, work camps? Detox on demand has not been happening for far too long now, people who want treatment have to wait a long time, especially if they are poor! And I repeat, SOCIAL HOUSING is where folks need to go after treatment. Supportive housing is temporary although, it’s MOSTLY WHAT DEAN FORTIN GAVE US!  At least Lisa Helps knows we need help to get money from feds and provinces to build social housing!  I want to inspire folks to come forward and support all their Mayors across Canada and tent with them one night all across Canada! That is what I want to support.

Although I agree with a lot of this statement, some of it concerns me:

“People who are homeless crave human connection, empowerment, purpose and meaningful work. So create community, rehabilitation, vocational training and meaningful work (CRTW). Offer a hand up, not a hand out.”…“This will provide the best opportunity for full reintegration into society. “

Again, you think society is good, it is not, it legislates and creates this mess and we need to change society not just think we got to fix these poor souls who end up on streets BECAUSE THERE ARE NO AFFORDABLE HOMES, JOBS SUCK SOULS AND MANY DO NOT WANT THOSE JOBS! Criminalization of illicit drugs and the criminalization of the poor needs to change! Meaningful work must be driven and dictated by the people and their desires/visions, not this latest example of “wanta be fascist” government’s we have been oppressed under well over 20 years now.

“Prevention, or “closing the front door” of homelessness, means, for example, targeting high-probability points of entry, such as discharges from psychiatric or correctional facilities — not just with housing, but with CRTW.”

Although I love that you’d do outreach to detox, makes sense, as I shared earlier on, I would have come to your farm!  Having said that, the calvinistic work ethic began its death cry years ago and we got to slow down production and finally plunge it’s cold heart with the dagger of justice!  And to repeat: The more we ignore social housing being built, the more people pile up on streets, the more mental health situations we will have to deal with and, why not also consider that many on streets now are ready and want to build.  People do drugs to deal with pain society legislates!  

Most folks are too narrow in our thinking and too narrow in life experience, I know the author and he has good intentions and yet, this letter comes off all against harm reduction and I am afraid I need to call out the author as confused and misdirected, with all due respect.

“Treatment asserts that many of those struggling on our streets, or languishing in shelters or isolated in housing projects, can also benefit from a CRTW approach. Treat the underlying issues.”

Again, the jobs this society wants us to work in are sick and a part of a death industry, jobs like in gas, oil, and destructive mining practices and unhealthy retail which mostly sells gross plastic krap while people want to grow food.  We can agree on “Lets get back to basics”. However, this conference you went to seems to have been filled up with folks who are being sucked back into the Calvinistic work ethic, the likes of which many of us want to keep dismantling and live happier lives that HELP the planet and life and not destroy it like Tar Sands, Gas and Oil Industry as well as most retail.

“There has been too much confusion, misdirection and discrimination against the homeless, addicted and mentally ill. They have been estranged and cast out to wander about. Homelessness, addiction and mental illness, even today, are all too often considered crimes to be punished, a disgrace to be hushed up, a personality weakness to be deplored or a welfare problem to be handled as cheaply as possible.”

THIS IS WHERE WE AGREE! So, why not work to decriminalise rather than attack Harm Reduction when its one of the only things that may be able to help us transition to a non-criminalised society which wants health in as many ways as possible? Harm reduction is a thing we need to think of in terms of planet and life itself, we all need more harm reduction not shit on this idea? Harm Reduction helps us understand we are in pain and need pain relief, humans did fine with pain relief long before the USA came in and made it a crime!!! Lets try realizing we are all slaves to a system which oppresses us!? Go from there how about?

“This is a quest for humanity, and of benevolence, of understanding, of wisdom, of compassion, of empathy, of taking positive strategic action and of providing answers. This is about shattering stigma, confusion, fears and prejudice around poverty, addictions, mental illness and homelessness through education, leadership and inclusivity. This is about focusing on the core underlying issues and creating real and lasting solutions by thinking and acting “outside the cardboard box.”

This is about our collective humanity.”

I must tell you, YOU JUST DESCRIBED HARM REDUCTION! Harm Reduction can bring people together to learn from each other in every community. I really want to investigate further what conference you went to as I am thinking it is weird that you came out of it this confused? I am going to guess the attack on harm reduction came out of UK, Europe for sure and yes, Canadian Governments have not only been slow to support harm reduction because its about long term systemic change, they have been attacking it outright, as we know from the court case!.

“Treatment asserts that many of those struggling on our streets, or languishing in shelters or isolated in housing projects, can also benefit from a CRTW approach. Treat the underlying issues.”

The biggest underlying issues are systemic oppression and Calvinistic work ethics: this kkkapitalist work ethic must change! Harm Reduction has helped diverse folks meet together and work together for change, we all have a story, all homeless are in pain, well, no surprise as many housed are in pain too. Why? Systemic oppressive work ethics that suck our life, tell us how we must live and how we must die! We got work to do and, leaning on old Kapitalist systems/beliefs will not help. Sure, you might be ok today, but, you all know that any day now you can lose it all and be homeless so, lets get with it!

“Prevention and treatment not only offer respite to those experiencing homelessness and their loved ones, they will lighten the burden on social services, policing and municipal crews as well.”

Everyone waking up and realizing we all got work to do on changing this system, which is oppressive, is a truth I want us to agree on before it’s too late.

Decriminalizing illicit drugs will lighten the load on police.  Creating Social Housing and building Affordable Housing for working poor will lighten load of police.  Fighting for a Basic Income Guarantee will lighten load of police, as the police “police the poor” at 75% of their own budget.

“There has been too much confusion, misdirection and discrimination against the homeless, addicted and mentally ill. They have been estranged and cast out to wander about. Homelessness, addiction and mental illness, even today, are all too often considered crimes to be punished, a disgrace to be hushed up, a personality weakness to be deplored or a welfare problem to be handled as cheaply as possible.”

Again, we agree on much and, decriminalise illicit drugs and stop the legislation of poverty; the solution to ending poverty and unnecessary suffering, as Martin Luther King figured around 1967, was social housing and a basic income. MLK Jr, figured out that “there were more poor white men than poor black men in America and that this was not simply a race issue”.  Beware: if the fascist Harper led neo conservatives know you want to end poverty, you will lose your funding! Now THAT is a BIG problem we got to focus on!  You already know that though.

In ending I love the homeless on a farm idea, and:

All 13 municipalities are parties to homelessness. All 13 have homeless people living in bushes, shelters or vehicles. All have former residents who gravitated to downtown Victoria, and all have something unique to contribute to solving this problem.

All need to drop an attitude of “someone else solving this somewhere else.

This is a quest for humanity, and of benevolence, of understanding, of wisdom, of compassion, of empathy, of taking positive strategic action and of providing answers. This is about shattering stigma, confusion, fears and prejudice around poverty, addictions, mental illness and homelessness through education, leadership and inclusivity. This is about focusing on the core underlying issues and creating real and lasting solutions by thinking and acting “outside the cardboard box.”

I and many in harm reduction agree 100% and, on that note:

Lets support Lisa Helps call for Mayors across Canada to tent one night in October in support of voting in a government which will take care of building Social Housing at 30% of income For Poor and Working Poor!

I add lets push the NDP and Greens to commit to the Basic Income and begin to write the budget which will include both of these.  I know of folks in our community who can help write that budget as well!  Harm reduction includes rehab and detox and, for me, choices which include this farm idea.  Yet, please do not attack us in Harm Reduction, this is divisive and why I needed to write this in the first place.

Take care brother.

Together we can make change with love.

kym a. hines aka: hothead

CTEHV

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