Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


The murder of RCMP officer Shaelyn Yang, (immediately following the Province wide municipal elections where the number 1 issue was the out of control crime and stranger attacks by drugged out homeless people) couldn't have made the point any clearer that it's way past time to do something meaningful about this out of control situation. The bleeding heart woke crowd, who can't seem to acknowledge that everything they have tried to do up until now has only made things worse, need to step aside and let the rest of us, who believe in law & order and civil society, take charge. Reality has to take over and harsh measures are needed to get things back to some semblance of normality.

The tent cities, drug dealing, and stolen goods markets that have taken over the sidewalks of the downtown eastside are so beyond the pale that no sane person could imagine people living like they do. Photos of the area are now becoming postcards and the area is a tourist attraction for those foolhardy enough to think it will add a little colour to their vacation in otherwise beautiful Vancouver. The filth, squalor, and crime these people wallow in is only possible because they are hopelessly addicted to powerful drugs that bare no resemblance to any sort of recreational high you might get from smoking a joint or even dropping a hit of LSD.

It's no exaggeration to say that all these people living in the downtown eastside have a severe mental problem, and at one time we had a place for these people to live and get treatment for their mental illness. Located in Coquitlam, Riverview Hospital originally opened in 1913 with room for 480 patients but by the end of the year there were 919 living there. The population continued to grow until by 1956 the facility had more than 4,000 patients. The facility had a nursery, botanical garden and even a farm (Colony Farm) that produced over 700 tons of crops and 20,000 gallons of milk every year using patient labour. It also had an Industrial Therapy Building that had shops for teaching cabinet making, upholstery, furniture finishing, metal work, printing, electronics, tailoring, shoemaking etc. to the patients so they could have a vocation when they resumed life after being discharged from the hospital.

Sadly all of that is gone now and the remaining buildings are now only used as film locations by the film industry. Starting in the 1960's the government started downsizing Riverview with promises to build smaller, more regional facilities elsewhere in a phased in approach. By 2002 Riverview was down to only 800 beds and then in 2012 it was completely closed and the promised regional facilities were never built. The provincial government at the time said that institutionalization was not the solution to homelessness or drug addiction and it was gaps in the community health care system needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, the gaps were never addressed and the patients were left to their own devices with most of them moving to the downtown eastside.

Almost immediately governments at every level realized this was a mistake and in 2015 the government promised to replace the obsolete buildings with new mental health facilities but, as of 2022, no new construction has started. In the meantime we have to endure the lawlessness taking over the downtown business area and creeping into every other neighbourhood. But there is a solution, and all that's required is rounding up these people and housing them in a secure, temporary facility with work camp style trailers. Once they are locked up they can undergo addiction and mental health treatment and then when that has been completed they can work on their vocational training before they are released. For those who can't make it on their own in society we need to put them in a permanent care facility, and this is something the government should be building with all speed.

Over the years there have been many advances in psychiatric care, and modern hospitals don't bear any resemblance to the old lunatic asylums of the past. We need to start building a new Riverview right away and, in the meantime, we shouldn't be dragging our feet on getting treatment for those who need it, regardless if they think differently. It's time to clean up the streets once and for all, return the parks to the use they were intended, and quit kidding ourselves that the problem will just go away if we give everyone free drugs and handouts. Tough love is what's required. We once had good facilities, now we have nothing which is bad, and it's only going to get uglier if we don't make some radical changes.

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