The time is now for governments to invest in mental health and addiction services that can better address growing concerns around homelessness and street crime in Greater Victoria. Unstable mental health is the root cause of many addictions as individuals chose to self-medicate.
Our region, especially downtown Victoria, needs a chance to recover after the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. We can't afford to have residents, businesses and employees feeling unsafe in their community.
The Chamber understands the complexity of the issue — it doesn't help to label all homeless as either criminals or lost lambs, as Jack Knox notes in the Times Colonist.
Fortunately, there are success stories in other jurisdictions that we can look to for guidance. We also know that Therapeutic Recovery Communities have had success, though helping people stick to treatment can be difficult.
"We can all agree that it's not acceptable to have people sleeping on our streets and in our parks. We can also agree it's not acceptable for people to feel unsafe due to property crime and violent behaviour in their neighbourhoods," says Chamber CEO Bruce Williams, who spoke about the issue on CFAX this morning.
"Unstable mental health is the root cause of many addictions as individuals chose to self-medicate," Williams says. "Prolonged drug use can impair the ability for rational and respectful behavior. A thorough plan to help create balanced mental health in our most vulnerable citizens is long overdue. The time to act is now."
People deserve a home, and our most vulnerable people need services that keep them from ending up homeless. Housing is vital, but it's not enough without mental health and addiction treatment.