Should a community take care of it’s most vulnerable members? Or cast them out? Which Cambridge represents you?
This Friday, I was present at the Cambridge Centre from 7am to a bit after 9pm.
I had so many nice interactions with everyone I encountered. A huge thanks to the many people that waved, chatted, cheered and listened.
Let me tell you about the couple from Galt that I alluded to in my Insta post yesterday (@Hiebert4Council). Let’s call them Jill & Jack. They stopped by and I said hello to them.
The first question from Jill was “Are you going to get rid of all the crackheads in Cambridge?”.
(Everytime I get this, or a similar question, I cringe. No matter how prepared I am, how much I have thought about my answers, I cringe. )
My response: “ Well, by get rid of them, what do you mean exactly, what do you think should be done?”
She leaned in a bit, lowered her voice and said “ I really don’t give a shit.” then smiled.
Jack, listening nearby, smiled and agreed.
The discussion went on for a few more minutes, mostly me listening.
I stated that we definitely need more supports, like addiction treatment options, faster access to mental health and of course more housing.
And I told them that the Bridges is meant to be an emergency shelter of last resort and it is not designed for medium or long term housing, it isn’t a treatment facility and so forth.
I mentioned that the demand for the services (ie people needing emergency shelter) is greater than the supply (beds), and that greatly worsens the situation. Overcrowding causes problems everywhere.
I don’t know how much, if any, of what I was saying was heard, and that is ok. Jill and Jack didn’t come talk to me to have their opinion changed or to learn about the situation.
They had an opinion and they wanted to share it. For a few minutes, I let them. And then Jack and Jill moved on. But before they left, they said more:
Jill told me one of her uncles was once on drugs and eventually got off them and is doing better now, so can “they” too. With the caveat: “If they really want to”.
She told me about “this girl” wearing expensive jeans, or how “they” wear expensive shoes, have smart phones, and more similar examples to illustrate their statement that “these people” don’t need our help, they should sell their expensive stuff first.
“If they can stand in the sun all day begging at the stop lights, they can get a job” was a very strongly held belief by Jack
I asked how successful he felt a person would be getting a job without having a home, or if they are actively using drugs. Didn’t seem to be an issue for him. I think the uncle was mentioned again.
(Side note: Do we not all know people that are housed, not actively using drugs that are struggling to find a job? How much will their chances of landing a job go up if they no longer have a home or if they are actively using drugs, or both? How is it even possible that I have to ask such a non-question? )
I couldn’t disagree more with their sentiments, but I listened and I told them that I agree that we need more supports, more access to affordable housing, more mental health support, more substance abuse treatment options. If I hadn’t met them, I wouldn’t have realized how many myths are being circulated that need to be dispelled. Jill & Jack’s heartless view of “others” and “them” fuels me to work even harder to ensure we deal with facts not fiction.
Their beliefs are largely built on myths, falsehoods and exaggerations. If we can shine a light on the BS, and deal in truth, we can solve problems. That is the way forward.
Myth: Everybody is in the same situation and should be treated the same.
Fact: Each person is an individual and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
I Am Guessing You do not want to be marginalized because of what someone else does or doesn’t do, do you? How offensive would it be if someone took Jack & Jill’s statement and attributed them to “all people from neighbourhood X”, or “all (insert ethnic group)” feel this way? Very offensive. And it would be wrong.
Myth: “They” are not from here, other cities are busing people to Cambridge
Fact: There are clear rules and procedures around access to social services. Cities are NOT sending people to Cambridge unless the people ARE from Cambridge. And vice versa.
Myth: “They” can stop doing drugs whenever they want, drug addiction is a choice
Fact: Substance abuse is a recognized medical disorder.
Currently, in the Region of Waterloo, and specifically in Cambridge, there is not enough treatment options for drug and alcohol abuse sufferers.
The solution is NOT to “get rid” of anybody. The solution is to increase the accessibility and availability of treatment options. Nor is there a political will to change that.
There are many more myths and false information and I encourage everybody to get the facts.
In closing, please keep in mind
- If we work together as a community, we can solve problems and make the city a safer, healthier and more secure place for everyone.
- If we pit people against each other and take sides, we will fail.
- It is NOT us and them, it is just US. There is no we and they, just WE. Together, we are better.