It’s been said that in many ways Abbotsford is a big city that thinks it’s a small town. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the way that it deals with its big city problems. Ironically, it may be a sense of civic pride that keeps us from addressing these issues properly. Homelessness? Prostitution? Drug problems? Not in our fair city. Such problems become even harder to talk about when you’re caught between two extremes of rhetoric on the problem. Either you’re a heartless monster for not wanting to support poor decision making, or you’re a bleeding heart communist for displaying common compassion.
Somewhere in between is James Breckenridge, the writer and maintainer of Homeless in Abbotsford. If there is a face to the homeless problem in Abbotsford, or anywhere else in North America, this man is it. He has to deal directly with the problem of expensive housing, mental illness, and an intractable city hall. He offers us not only rhetoric against homelessness, but innovative hands-on solutions to a complex problem. The post titled “Who is/Who are the homeless” outlines exactly how complex and intractable homelessness can be. I was particularly fond of his proposals to allow the homeless free access to showers and bathrooms at our public recreation centers. It seems to be cost effective, and the ID card system would provide access to services that would help get people off the streets for good. These and other posts outline how magic bullets are impossible, but small scale solutions can do so much.
As I read Mr. Breckenridge’s posts, I wondered how many people knew about the solutions he was writing about. It turns out, many of his ideas come from successful programs in other municipalities. I believe that the reason people hold back on doing more for the homeless is that they are afraid that their time and money will be wasted on short-term solutions. If there is more information and more options for people to direct their funds and their compassion, maybe we can provide an environment where advocates for the homeless can have less frustration and more success.
James W. Breckenridge’s blog is located at homeless-in-abbotsford.blogspot.com