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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Mental health care, addiction treatment crucial to combat homelessness

Assess, treat and support people to help them with re-integration into society, says letter writer
Homelessness requires more complex solutions than simply creating housing, says letter writer. (News Bulletin file photo)

To the editor,

Homelessness in Nanaimo and elsewhere is not primarily a housing issue and requires a more complex and perhaps more expensive solution than simply creating housing.

Many of the people who are homeless have serious mental health issues, especially if we include drug and alcohol dependence. The behaviours that we find unacceptable and often illegal are therefore involuntary and irresponsible. If people are participating in largely involuntary and irresponsible behaviour then society must take responsibility for them. We do not leave them encamped in public parks, toileting in the shrubberies, panhandling and stealing, engaged in a variety of threatening behaviours including serious assault and being drunk, stoned and disorderly in public places. We are failing them as fellow human beings by allowing them to suffer in this way in the name of some misguided interpretation of personal freedom.

They must be removed from these public spaces. Some coercion will be necessary for them to be taken to a safe, medical assessment facility where their capacity to live on their own can be assessed and their dependencies addressed. Some may be unable to return to true independence and may require long-term care. The goal should be to assess, treat and release with a support system that will enable them the best chance of re-integration into society. Anything less fails them and afflicts all of us as we see today.

Such an approach is beyond the ability of a city. It must be co-ordinated and financed by senior governments who have responsibility for mental health, law and order.

At all costs, even the cost of doing nothing, we must avoid a return to the past where ‘inconvenient’ humans were simply warehoused in vast institutions. We closed them and the pendulum swung too far, to the conditions we see today.

Brian Blood, Lantzville

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The views and opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of Black Press Media or the Nanaimo News Bulletin.

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