Harm reduction for who?

Courageous words from "Recovering addict speaks," Castanet, May 28 – "There is little evidence that shows these 'harm reduction' strategies are leading to higher treatment entry, or recovery rates."

Harm reduction may have been born out of good intentions and planning, with specific goals. Los Angeles 1988, providing shelter and care for homeless families. New York 1992, providing shelter and care for chronically homeless individuals with disibilities, including alcohol and substance abuse.

In the family model, in-depth screening and appropriate services were required when children were involved. Otherwise, no preconditions. In the individuals model, housing was premised to be a basic human right, and there were no preconditions for residency.

Basically, it is a philosophical honour system. It's felt that once people feel safely sheltered, they'll endeavour to improve their circumstances. No tough love here. You'll know when you're ready for change.

Compassion, or naivete? Some of both. Which beget a considerably longer list of failures than successes.

Accountability and follow-up are two more catchphrases. Why shouldn't they be, when there are no preconditions for the tenants or clients?

Needless to say, there's not much need for the "wraparound case management services" promised for tenants or clients. An oft-used selling point for the harm reduction program.

Catchphrase upon catchphrase. There seems to be no end in sight, as taxpayers continue to feed a useless program that's little more than a guise for doing something.

When asked by the auditor general for risks, benefits, costs, options as pertaining to harm reduction, BC Housing refused to answer by claiming public interest immunity.

On Jan. 17, in spite of being warned against building such a facility in a predominantly seniors neighbourhood at Agassiz Road, Kelowna council voted unanimously to do so. Harm reduction for who? Not the addicts, not the seniors, not the taxpayers.

We wish the "recovering addict" continued success, and hope for the same result for others, through sensible programs that promote treatment first and foremost.

Gordon and Janet Brooks, Kelowna

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