Author’s Note: I’m writing this after completion and before I click the “Publish” button.
Most of my fan base read because of the humour I address things with.
I tried here dear reader, I really did. I’m addressing a topic which makes me sad and angry and has touched me personally.
You will see why I have a “wait 30 minute” rule before responding to an email that irritates me….once I get going its hard to stop. I sometimes have a problem with self-censorship, but I think what I have to say here has to be said.
If you agree, please pass this along to others who care…
Yes, I know I made up some words…and my proof reader pointed out that most people won’t know that “hook you up” means “provide you with drugs”
This inaugural installment of “Yes, they really said that!” comes to me by way of an article by Patrick Maloney in The London Free Press
The headline “Merchants balk at needle disposal bins” caught my attention, as the plight of the homeless, who are often addicts and suffer from mental health issues is one of those things that makes me angry. You will see from my words here that it is something that I am quite passionate about.
To see from the headline you would think that the city of London installed giant, industrial site dumpster sized bins all over the East Village in London Ontario. But, if you look at the picture accompanying the article, you will see that they are rather mundane looking bins that could be mistaken for waste bins with the exception of stickers saying, “Needle Drop Box” on the side, and there aren’t 1000’s of them, or even 100’s…there are 13, located in locations where residents (people who are there 24/7, not just working hours) have complained about needles being left lying around.
The part that caught my eye and cried out for me to bring it to the attention of the world is this:
“Chief among Keane’s worries is that drug users won’t dispose their needles, and it’ll be left to residents and merchants to toss them in the bins — creating a health risk.” This is attributed to Ken Keane, chair of the Old East Village Business Improvement Area.
Its a popular belief that 100% of people with an IQ greater than that of a turnip will agree that in the absence of proper needle disposal options that 100% of needles will be disposed of in a manner that is unsafe. But…well, if there are no bins to dump needles in then residents wouldn’t need to pick them up…so yes, that’s safe…except for children, pets, people who fall down and sandal wearing hippies.
I’m pretty sure that Mr. Keane is among those of us whose IQ is greater than the average turnip but I really have to wonder what lead him to say something to a reporter who probably made it pretty clear that he was asking questions for an article that would eventually be published. Just in case I have googled “Patrick Maloney ninja reporter” and didn’t get any results that made sense.
The only thing I can think of is that Mr. Keane decided that this bit of alarmist claptrap would make a good sound bite and scare the hell of people.
Alarmism is a completely useless strategy in battling anything except reason, peace and tranquility.
The article goes on to demonstrate Mr. Maloney’s usual thoroughness as he has statements from both the city counselor for the area, and the guy whose in charge of community services. The former points out that the residents (the people who live there) want them, so they’re staying. The second guy muses over the fact that perhaps there was a lack of “public consultation” but there are studies to back up their efficacy (that’s a fancy word for how well something works).
The problem here of course isn’t what’s being said in the article, or the bins, or even the addicts we hope will use the bins.
There are a great many who see things like addiction or mental health issues as character flaws. Its one of the reasons I’m open about being Bi-Polar, so people can see that someone with proper support can be a productive member of society, and I have tons of support….friends who love me enough to ask, “Are you okay?”, and even, “Are you taking your meds?” when they think that maybe I’m not. I might snap at them for asking, but I love them for doing it.
It also provides the occasional amusement for me as several times in recent years when in the company of a stranger the topic of mental health comes up and they say something derogatory about those suffering from mental health issues. I will point out that I am bi-polar, and ask them for amplification. Now, if you can’t tell from my picture I am a big guy, and I know how to project threat. Of course any one who knows me well enough to know that I wouldn’t harm someone in this instance already knows I’m bi-polar. I should point out its not the “Harm No Living Thing” bit that keeps me from beating them bloody, its the fact that I just can’t bring myself to harm someone with the intellect of an amoeba.
My point is that someone with mental health issues can thrive with proper support!
Let’s get back on track here, and I’m going to make this as clear and as simple as possible.
Homelessness, addiction and the crime that arises from these things are not the problem, they are symptoms of the problem.
The problem is that these people are marginalized by society in general. Services that help them out of the situation are often located where they are difficult to reach because of NIMBY “sky is falling” assholes delaying projects and initiatives with demands for “public consultation” and protests and every tactic they can think of to push these initiatives away, or kill them entirely. They ignore statistics disputing their claims of increased crime when services are established, instead of relying on hysterical alarmist rhetoric.
And why do they do this? Property value is often cited. Yes, money > human dignity apparently.
If crime becomes a problem they have these people called “Police” who will come. I think their number is 9 something something…If the crime becomes a real problem the police will do something called a “crack down”….which is sort of like a “hoe down”, only with handcuffs (ummm…if you say that outloud the meaning comes out completely differently). Most criminals probably abhor country music, hoop skirts and handcuffs and will move on and become someone else’s problem.
The other problem, in my opinion, is the ghettoization of the poor. (it is with black humour that I note that when I right clicked on ghettoization the only spelling suggestion was anesthetization) When you create a social housing project you are centralizing the problem, in my opinion, making it harder for someone to climb out and get clear.
Its sort of like the mafia…once you’re in, you never really leave…
Let me put it this way….lets say you’re an addict. You get get sent to jail where you manage to get clean. You get out, you’ve alienated your family and every real friend you’ve ever had and you’ve got no place to go. The social worker at the jail finds you housing in a social housing project.
You arrive at your new home with the only possessions you have in the whole wide world…a garbage bag of donated clothes they gave you when you left the jail, full of hope, eager to start your life over. You see old friends from “the life”. They offer to “hook you up”, but you say no…you’re going to make an honest go of it.
You get help putting together your resume from the local Y. You look and hope that the fact that your work experience is very sparse isn’t going to be a problem.
You go through the bag of donated clothes and see that you’ve got nothing even half appropriate for job hunting. You ask around if you can borrow something, but no one has anything…but they do offer to hook you up.
As you go about handing out your shiny new resume, you get very few calls. You go to the local thrift shop to see if they have anything for job hunting that you can afford from the $200 or so that welfare gives you a month for food and well…everything except shelter. You find something but you have to make a decision of buying them and going hungry. One of the things you’ve never developed were good coping skills, so instead of making the decision you decide to steal them. (it will be later in life that you wish they would’ve caught you so you would’ve gone back to jail).
So, now that you’ve got one set of decent clothes you continue your search, and then you run into that other problem. No one wants to hire someone with a record, especially a recent one, especially someone who lives at that address. And in this economy why would they? They’ve probably got 20 applicants with Master’s degrees for that one waitress position.
Your life was pretty hard growing up, and no one took the time to teach you proper coping skills, or stress management, or even that you were a good person. Why? In the best case scenario because their care-givers did the best they could, but didn’t have those skills themselves..but in a very high percentage of cases it was because their care-givers were too busy mentally, physically and/or sexually abusing you to take the time to pass things like that on.
So, after a couple of weeks of this, you’re destitute having spent a lot of money trying to get to job interviews that aren’t on bus routes, you’re depressed and desperate. You spill your guts out to an old friend who helps you out the only way he knows how…he hooks-you-up. You look at the pills in his extended hand. You remember that while in jail when things were bad you would smack your arm trying to find a vein and then pinch it, emulating injecting a hit…in hopes that it would make you feel better.
You might resist that time, and maybe the next. But barring a miracle you are back to doing whatever you have to do to get money for your next fix. You lose your sad little studio apartment because you’re too busy either, getting or trying to get high to fill in the paper work required to stay on welfare. Once you lose your apartment, you’re pretty much screwed for welfare because…you need an address to get benefits! I’m don’t know how many landlords are willing to rent to someone who won’t be able to give them a penny until the end of the month.
And that my friends, is a true story (no…not mine). Hopefully you can see my point, and understand why I’m telling it.
I know the person whose story this is. She told it to me over time, some of it I witnessed directly.
She ended up betraying my friendship in a manner I couldn’t forgive and I cut her out of my life. I will not tell our story here, or anywhere for that matter.
The only reason I say this is so that when I demonstrate in-depth knowledge of street culture, you know where it comes from.
I don’t know what the solution is. Especially here in Canada where the federal government won’t directly support homeless shelter’s because they don’t want to encourage homelessness.
But I do know that so long as society in general, and politicians specifically see street people as the disease and not symptoms of a larger problem, that this won’t be fixed.
Imprisoning an addict for committing crimes to support their habit is a wonderful opportunity to intervene and rehabilitate…but as a society we seem bent on punishing them and then setting them loose….and how well is that working out?