Deputy Premier Rich Coleman (left) has carried the housing file through a variety of ministries over more than 10 years. He's pushing 'low barrier' housing now.

Deputy Premier Rich Coleman (left) has carried the housing file through a variety of ministries over more than 10 years. He's pushing 'low barrier' housing now.

BC VIEWS: Alternatives to drug ghettos

Rich Coleman expands supports for street drug addicts where they gather, instead of offering them a way out

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.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

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

Just Posted

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Staff and volunteers at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea were disappointed by the theft of an educational porpoise skull likely taken on Jan. 8. (Courtesy of Tina Kelly)
Well-loved porpoise skull stolen from Sidney aquarium

Skull had been used for youth and visitor education and outreach for years

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

An Oak Bay Police officer handed out five tickets for “fail to obey stop sign” and two tickets for using a cell phone while driving, all within two hours at King George Terrace on Jan. 11. (Oak Bay Police Twitter)
Man confronts unmasked group at Oak Bay Marina

Oak Bay police issue plenty of tickets in short King George Terrace visit

A 45-metre tall call tower is proposed for Westhills Stadium. (Black Press Media file photo)
New cell tower proposed for Westhills Stadium in Langford

Tower will increase capacity in congested network: staff report

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Most Read