It was interesting to hear Andy Silver, executive director of the Council for the Homeless, speak at the council’s recent fundraising luncheon. He said that there are “about 70 people in Vancouver who are chronically homeless and difficult to help. They are heavy users of emergency rooms and the jail.”
This is a significant statement that large numbers of the chronic homeless population are mentally ill. The first step to helping this vulnerable population is psychiatric care. Creating housing solutions for them is the second step, not the first step, as advocated by Silver.
Sadly, enough psychiatric care is scarce, underfunded and not a first priority. Politically, the Council for the Homeless could be a frontline advocate for alternatives to the jail and the ER.
Perhaps we are growing our own terrorist by not providing correct psychiatric care? Perhaps we are allowing the mentally ill full access to their civil rights, while allowing them to shoot up dozens of innocent people? Perhaps we should ask ourselves the question: Are we a caring and compassionate society?
Ceci Ryan Smith