Our Collective Silence

By on June 14, 2013

Yes, I have something to say about homelessness and the City’s treatment of our citizens in need. In fact, you all should read this. As a community, you should all be ashamed.

All of you. Even the great people that have spoken up in letters in the local newspapers. It is your fault too.

Let me explain…

As the Mayor has so ironically stated in his recent press conference on the chicken manure incident, Abbotsford is full of some of the most generous people in Canada. Except their generosity is not for local causes.

You…the collective you, as in the community of Abbotsford…will spend unlimited money sending missionaries to build homes for people in other countries…but those dirty, lazy homeless people here just need to go out and get a job.

You…again the collective you, will stage charity events like the Run for Water, but sit quietly at home as your own water bill is tripled punishing poor working families right here.

You…would have a fit if the Government took supplies like clean needles away from Type 2 Diabetics and yet try to give a drug addict a clean needle and apparently it is the end of civilization.

It is only a person that has never had to struggle for their next meal, never wondered where they will sleep tonight, never had to deal with mental illness, nor suffered under the genetic predisposition for addiction that can be as cruel as we have been to our homeless and needy.

You’ve seen it said out loud and yet you don’t recognize it.

Let me remind you…

Our Police Chief at a public forum about 18 months ago – “My policy is displace and disperse … we only respond to complaints from citizens…we don’t seek the homeless out…”

Oh? So, our official police policy is to simply get them out of town? Sounds like it to me. There is no other plan right? C’mon guys…there is no other plan. As for citizen complaints, let’s break that down. Most of the time, homeless camps are setup on public land. Imagine if you went on a camping trip into the backwoods and a cop showed up and took your tent and cooking gear away and then spread chicken feces all over your campground.

Not the same thing you say? Why? Is it not the same thing because you are lucky enough to have a home to go back to? Is it not the same thing because you could prove to the officer that you have a home and a job? Is it not the same thing because you drove to that campsite in your Volvo and were dressed in your brand new hunter’s camo?

It is exactly the same thing and ‘you’ don’t get it.

You’ve also heard the phrases “high barrier” and “low barrier” when it comes to providing services to the homeless.

What? Why is there any barrier?

So, a homeless person has to be clean and sober in order to get the services that will help them get clean and sober? Yep…and folks…that is “low barrier” in this town. If you’re high or drunk but you need help you are on your own.

I already hear some of you saying…”They should be on their own. No one ever helped me. They need to pull their socks up, get a job and stop free-loading off the system”.

You are right.

…but they can’t do it from where they are. I don’t advocate giving away the farm to the poor. I advocate one simply philosophical idea.

When a homeless person or a drug addict is ready to rise up out of the conditions they find themselves in…when they reach out their hand, we should be there, as a community to take it. We should then commit to holding that hand until they are ready to let go and sustain themselves.

Nothing should stand in the way of taking that outreached hand. There should be no barriers, no conditions and the only expectation is mutual effort.

That philosophical idea is largely absent in Abbotsford. Some are trying but the big dollars and the big efforts have nothing to do with mutual effort.

Why am I blaming you for this?

Your silence.

  • When City Councillors told Peace Lutheran Church to stop feeding the homeless in Jubilee Park… you were silent.
  • When City Councillors voted against Harm Reduction… you were silent.
  • When the Province of BC closed doors to the Adolescent Psych unit at Abbotsford hospital… you were silent.
  • When the Province of BC cut the number of beds in half in the Adult Psych unit… you were silent.
  • When the Mental Health Hotline lost a great portion of its funding and now cannot operate 24 hours a day…you were silent.
  • Now it looks like Mike de Jong will renege on his promise to fund the Warm Zone again, despite announcing that funding before the election…and I bet you’ll be silent again.

Who cares right? These things don’t affect you. Who cares if the cops steal the homeless’ stuff. Just because they go out into the community and are forced to steal from your neighbours, why should you care?

A Type 2 Diabetic takes Insulin because of lifestyle choices that compound a genetic predisposition. They need a clean needle. Drug addicts are exactly the same, but …eeeewwwww….drug addicts are dirty. We can’t give them clean needles. They’ll just use more drugs. I mean giving Diabetics insulin means they just eat more donuts right? But diabetics can have a shower and so it’s OK to help them…but not those dirty drug addicts.

Just because they end up in the Emergency Room when they should be in the Psych ward at half the price doesn’t effect you right? Or how about we just put them in jail and spend $100,000 a year on them instead of only about $40,000 to give them real long-lasting services. Naw…that would be the right thing to do. Just don’t do it here in Abbotsford.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Langley and Chilliwack both committed to real change and have built facilities that house, feed, educate, mentor and empower the people that need help to do what we want them to do. They get people back into housing and back to work and back to a contributing life.

Those communities are spreading love while we spread chicken shit.

Now for the unkindest cut of all.

Some say that if we build great facilities to help the homeless and drug addicts that they will all come here.

I have two things to say about that…the first is GREAT! If we’re the most generous people in Canada then bring it on!  Reality, however, is different. Langley’s new facility can sleep 250 people. So why aren’t our homeless going there? Don’t forget folks…homeless people are poor. Perhaps you don’t understand what that means. No car, no bus pass, no food, no way.

These people are our citizens with as much right to services delivered here as those people on other continents we seem so quick to raise money for.

Break your silence!

Tell your City Councillors and your MLA’s that you want a made-in-Abbotsford solution. Tell them that you want to start spreading the love instead of the chicken crap. Speak out and prove that you are the community you claim to be.

About Vince Dimanno

Vince is co-owner of the Today Media Group and has been a web and software developer for 18 years. Responsible for inventing multiple web based technologies and generally considered to be an all-round nerd, Vince has also found himself in the middle of the Abbotsford political scene. He helped form the Abbotsford FIRST political party and all 4 of his running mates were elected to Council in 2014. He has happily returned to writing columns for the Today Media Group where he hopes to keep putting his two-cents out onto the interwebs.


  1. John Driediger

    June 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I appreciate the discontent of the author but he’s wanting the government or maybe ‘the church’ to fix the problem. What’s he doing but ranting and raving? Don’t knock what others are raising money for. Why not kick start and do the marketing for your special cause. Should it always be someone else’s responsibility ? I personally find people in Abbotsford very generous to donate to the less fortunate. Please don’t ask the government or even the church to do what we can and should do ourselves.

    • Vince Dimanno

      June 14, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      I purposefully mentioned no churches. My intention is to get you thinking about your attitude about the homeless, addicts and the poor. Read the letters in the local newspapers and you’ll see that people really do just want them out of here. They really do think they can just go get a job. People in Abbotsford have no interest in coming together as a community to deal with this issue. Rather they think Government already does too much. As for fundraising, re-read the section on the costs of NOT providing services to the homeless, addicted or mentally ill. We don’t need another charity, we need to spend our money more intelligently and there will be plenty to go around.

      • John Driediger

        June 15, 2013 at 8:41 pm

        Vince, I need to apologize for sounding like a know it all. This is a very complex mess that needs attention. Thanks for your part in addressing it. I’d love to sometimes if we meet to share from my perspective some possible solutions. Have a great week !

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