This article was originally published in the North Shore Business Improvement Association newsletter.
By JEREMY HEIGHTON
Executive Director, North Shore BIA
… I HAD A TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITY for conversation with a person whom I respect and admire, and who helped me reset my thinking. Following my conversation, I realize that I had failed to stay focused on our vision this summer. I got sidetracked by the challenges instead of exploring ways to create alternate outcomes.
If we want a different outcome, we need to look at the problem with a different lens. As Henry Ford famously stated: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”
So, NSBIA members, it is time to start again, more intelligently.
First, some context.
I understand that we have a crisis in this country that we here on the North Shore can’t necessarily solve, as its beyond our control. Opioid addiction is a systemic challenge for health providers, housing and service providers, and support agencies.
There are some realities we need to accept:
- True homelessness is a result of a series of circumstances that are faced by an individual that are insurmountable and beyond our control to change after the fact.
- Being homeless and sitting on a street corner is not illegal. It may be inconvenient, but no laws are being broken.
- Homelessness, drug addiction and some petty criminality may or may not be linked together. The solutions to each is as unique as the individual.
- Drug addiction is a mental health and public health disease. By criminalizing drug use, we inhibit options for treatment and the opportunity to get people into care is made more difficult.
- Other social issue exist in concert with these core issues.
At the NSBIA, we are strongly committed to creating a community where issues are balanced between all of our neighbourhoods, where we each carry a portion of both the challenges, and the opportunities to create positive outcomes, across Kamloops.
With this in mind, we need to turn our focus toward the outcomes we want to see tomorrow.
We must decide what elements of community we want to see employed, and what types of programs, services and solutions can be implemented throughout Kamloops.
We must be steadfast in our intent that this is not a North Shore problem, and that services, housing and programing is offered equally across our city.
We must work to ensure that the services we offer provide the greatest opportunity for positive outcomes.
As I think about the reality of today and the community of tomorrow, I must admit that going from where we are now, to where we want to be will not be an easy road. We will stumble as we move forward, we will make mistakes. What is most critical is to stick steadfastly to our vision of a strong, vibrant community that exists in partnership with our neighbourhoods.
To this end, there are some fundamental shifts that will need to occur in Legislation and Law that we are already advocating for. There will need to be a different approach to our management of our street level challenges and opportunities, and – most critically there will need to be full community engagement in solution finding and execution of our vision.
We, as a business community must be willing to step forward and take active roles in the future of our neighbourhoods through thoughtful and proactive engagement with our elected officials, ourselves as advocates for our community, and our displaced populations.
So, what do I think we need to do?
First, we need to define a “continuum” for our community, which identifies the prevention and treatment options which currently are under providedin our city. We require detox, sobering and treatment options which are easily accessible for those who chose to be champions of their own lives in all of our major areas (Shore, Downtown, Valleyview and Sahali). We owe it to ourselves, as well as those who are displaced to provide the tools which will stem the flow of the current crises and give them the tools to start recovery.
Secondly, we need to define or redefine our housing programing. We need to assess the feasibility of a laddered approach to providing effective life altering programming. Let’s make sure we aren’t just “housing” folks and ensure a real laddered process for taking folks from the street to treatment, to life skills development, to supported living to independent living to community re-entry.
Instead of housing folks with no outcomes, lets look at how we (us in the business community) could create an exit from supports to real, credible life supports such as real jobs at living wages. Let’s look for opportunities to employ folks who are champions of their own lives and give them the hope to become what they truly want to be.
Let’s build a model that creates the safe and real neighbourhood that allows us all to live together in a tapestry that doesn’t destroy people for the choices they may have made, and life they are now living in; rather builds them up, and delivers on the needs that make it no longer attractive to live on the cold streets.
Let’s do this differently.
To this end, I have engaged TRU in the initial discussions on conducting a Shore wide study to review current reality, gaps and opportunities in the system and positive outcomes to strive toward. This study will serve as the basis for our forward planning on a grander scale. It will provide the foundation for the North Shore to become the community it has always been the multicultural heart of Kamloops.
It’s time to reset the conversation on our community, and I for one, am prepared to roll up my sleeves to get to work. I hope you will join me.
Jeremy Heighton is the executive director of the North Shore Business Improvement Association. he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.