Home­less­ness needs huge ef­fort

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - - Editor-in-chief Neil God­bout

Fif­teen years ago, dozens of log­ging trucks drivers were be­ing killed or se­ri­ously in­jured ev­ery year in B.C. forests.

The RCMP said it wasn’t their prob­lem be­cause log­ging roads aren’t pub­lic streets or high­ways and there weren’t laws be­ing bro­ken that were caus­ing harm to the drivers.

Worksafe BC said it wasn’t their prob­lem be­cause the drivers were rested and safely driv­ing prop­erly work­ing trucks.

ICBC said it wasn’t their prob­lem be­cause the drivers were qual­i­fied to drive their trucks and load, which were prop­erly in­sured.

The for­est com­pa­nies said it wasn’t their prob­lem be­cause the log­ging truck drivers were in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors who were re­spon­si­ble for their own safety after driv­ing away from the log­ging sites.

The Min­istry of Forests said it wasn’t their prob­lem be­cause their job is to man­age forests, not to man­age the haul­ing of logs to the mill.

Only when the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment brought all of the stake­hold­ers to the table was the prob­lem in its to­tal­ity ad­dressed. With the money and au­thor­ing to change things and the over­sight to main­tain those changes, the pre­ventable ac­ci­dents and deaths were all but elim­i­nated.

Un­til the pro­vin­cial (and fed­eral) gov­ern­ments get in­volved with home­less­ness and street pop­u­la­tions, little will change.

Mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments will say there is only so much they can do with zon­ing and by­laws. If there is il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity go­ing on, res­i­dents should call the po­lice.

Mu­nic­i­pal po­lice forces will say there is only so much they can legally do to stop street pop­u­la­tions from petty theft, van­dal­ism, lit­ter­ing, pan­han­dling, pub­lic in­tox­i­ca­tion and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iours of­ten caused by drugs, men­tal health is­sues or a com­bi­na­tion of both be­cause once peo­ple are ar­rested and charged, they are of­ten free to go un­til their court date. If some­one is over­dos­ing, an am­bu­lance should be called.

Health agen­cies say there is only so much they can do to treat pa­tients with emer­gen­cies, of­fer on­go­ing men­tal health and ad­dic­tions treat­ment and harm re­duc­tion pro­gram. If some­one needs food, cloth­ing and/or ac­com­mo­da­tion, there are so­cial agen­cies avail­able to help.

So­cial agen­cies will say their mis­sion is pro­vid­ing life’s ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties.

Un­til the pro­vin­cial (and fed­eral) gov­ern­ments get in­volved with home­less­ness and street pop­u­la­tions, little will change.

If their clients are loi­ter­ing in­side or pan­han­dling out­side of a down­town busi­ness, the owner or man­ager should com­plain to the city.

Round and round it goes.

The tragic irony is that street pop­u­la­tions, lo­cal res­i­dents and down­town busi­ness owners and op­er­a­tors are all be­ing vic­tim­ized by the same bu­reau­cratic log­jam. Down­town busi­nesses de­serve a safe place to work, lo­cal res­i­dents de­serve safe streets, street pop­u­la­tions de­serve a safe en­vi­ron­ment to re­ceive com­pas­sion­ate as­sis­tance and sup­port to im­prove their lives.

The cur­rent mess in Prince Ge­orge’s down­town and in cities across the prov­ince and coun­try is what hap­pens when in­di­vid­ual stake­hold­ers each do their part with in­suf­fi­cient co­or­di­na­tion and over­sight.

Whether it’s log­ging truck drivers or street pop­u­la­tions, the strate­gic goal boils down to one word: safety.

If Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, the pro­vin­cial pre­miers and In­dige­nous lead­ers are look­ing for a na­tional uni­fi­ca­tion project that tran­scends pol­i­tics and would sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove com­mu­ni­ties ev­ery­where to the ben­e­fit of all Cana­di­ans, home­less­ness and street pop­u­la­tions would be a fine place to start.

It’ll take time, money and agen­cies used to do­ing their own thing with little ac­count­abil­ity hav­ing to an­swer for their ac­tions and in­ac­tion. But it will cer­tainly bet­ter than the on­go­ing fi­asco hap­pen­ing now, with no end in sight.

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