By Lyonel Doherty
There’s always a thin line between having a home and living on the street. The same goes for being clean and having a drug addiction. It’s a tight rope that many people seem to be walking these days.
Is it our imagination or are mental health problems more prevalent today than ever?
That’s why the Community Active Support Table (CAST) is so crucial.
This pilot project out of Penticton is expanding to the South Okanagan and it can’t come soon enough.
The idea behind it makes perfect sense in today’s society plagued by homelessness, drug addiction and mental health woes.
For example, there are at least a couple of individuals in Oliver who need support. One in particular is known for his nuisance behaviour bordering on harassment. He will purposefully block your path as you walk by, or will throw an object at you while passing you on the street. Of course, your first reaction is the sudden urge to have him thrown into a paddy wagon and driven to the darkest corner of the Earth. Why should citizens be continually subjected to this harassment? Must we wait until he hurts somebody before the authorities intervene? That isn’t right.
On the other hand, loading these people up and removing them from the community is neither a solution to their problem nor ours.
Enter CAST, a multi-agency approach that can offer support to these people within 24 to 48 hours.
RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager is absolutely right – we shouldn’t criminalize a single mom who shoplifts to feed her children; we should offer her a solution to her poverty.
Someone who gets into trouble because he’s homeless is not a criminal, and somebody who’s yelling in the middle of the street is not a bad guy.
Last week I noticed a fellow talking to himself while he was strolling on the sidewalk. He crossed the street against a red light, prompting a vehicle to suddenly brake for his safety. He immediately glared at the driver and gave her the finger. My daughter didn’t want to get out of our car for fear of seeing the man again.
As much as we’d like the RCMP to take him away, he’s not a policing problem, he’s a mental health problem that requires quick intervention by the experts.
Since the federal election is fast approaching, now is the time to put our candidates to the test. What will their parties do to bring real solutions to the problem?
Closing down our mental health facilities to allow patients to wander the streets without support was a big mistake. Now it’s time to correct that mistake and show some real compassion for the lost and rejected.