Friday, 8 April 2016

Arlene Hache's comments on [Yellowknife's] "...Downtown businesses say public drunkenness, violence alarming customers..."

Please read Arlene Hache's comments on this posting from CBC News via Facebook

Downtown businesses say public drunkenness, violence alarming customers
'There's not enough being done,' says Ragged Ass Barbers owner James McGaughey

Arlene Hache's comments
"…I am not sure if violence in the downtown has worsened in the last three months or not, but I have certainly seen people of all ages being attacked, harassed and frightened by the violence going on around them, in the mall and other parts of the downtown. There have been assaults and sexual assaults in broad daylight and some of those have been "random acts of violence toward strangers" who just happened to be walking down the street. Regardless, residents who witness downtown violence have a right to be in a public environment free of violence and fear.

All Yellowknifers, including the marginalized and vulnerable women and men downtown who are seen to be the problem deserve to feel and more importantly be safe. The suggestion that downtown violence is to be tolerated because the people involved know each other and it is just an escalated argument is a mischaracterization. It is also misplaced, disregarding, discriminatory, offensive and dangerous. It is the acceptance of violence as the norm that contributes to the downtown problem and is a key reason it has escalated over the years.

The RCMP, the City of Yellowknife and some service providers have taken the position that the downtown problem is one of addictions rather than one of violence and it has served to muddy the waters - leaving Yellowknifers frustrated, angry and at risk. It has led residents, particularly those who are homeless and marginalized to believe that they are unprotected and so need to protect themselves because no-one else will.

In my experience, there is a stark difference between managing addictions and managing violence. If we don't get that straight, all residents of Yellowknife will continue to be at risk. When I was the Executive Director of the emergency shelter for women who were homeless, we housed women who were intoxicated to make sure they were safe and didn't freeze. They were incredible women with a superior level of strength, courage and pure determination that many people failed to recognize or honour. The women withstood inhumane levels of violence and victimization from childhood onward and were far more at risk of being assaulted and violated than they were of assaulting others.

Having said that, on occasion some of the women responding from trauma exhibited threatening and violent behaviour that was self-harming or targeted other residents and staff. In those instances, the RCMP were called to intervene because keeping the community safe is exactly their job. I took the position that the women could return the very next day if they were stabilized and able to not threaten others. In the 25 years I was at the Centre only three were not able to return for long periods of time because of a long-established pattern of violent behaviour - a pretty amazing outcome when you consider some women who stayed at the Centre were refused admittance to Stanton Hospital and even the Fort Smith Women's Correctional Centre because they were considered too high-risk.

Over the years, many of the RCMP responded quickly understanding how risky the shelter environment was with only one person on staff. Others refused in spite of the risk, waiting for the fatal blow before agreeing to show up. One night I had to leave my house and threaten to sit my ass at the RCMP detachment until they agreed to remove a woman with a long history of violence from the shelter who was threatening staff and other residents.

Bardak says that having a roundtable for discussing these issues is missing, but in fact there have been multitudes of navel-gazing roundtable discussions on homelessness, addictions and mental health issues over the past two decades. The City of Yellowknife disbanded one of those roundtables to establish a Community Advisory Board because they didn't like what they heard at the table and decided to go it on their own. The Yellowknife Homeful demanded housing NOW for homeless individuals two years ago, but did little more than join in the navel gazing exercise.

What Yellowknifers and taxpayers across the North really need to consider is this: A ton of health and social programs that purport to meet the needs of Northerners with addictions, mental illness and other social issues that contribute to homelessness have been established, but do they work or contribute to the problem?

The former Minister of Justice Dave Ramsay who was sent packing said the justice system in the North was the best in Canada. The current Minister of Health and Social Services Glen Abernethy who should have been sent packing claimed the same about health services in the North. So, according to those two leaders - no see, no hear, no do.

In terms of Yellowknife, there are five emergency shelters, one for men, one for women, one for families, one for women and families fleeing violence and one for youth. There are three transition houses, one for men, one for families and one for women fleeing violence - none for the women housed at the Centre for Northern Families.

The Bailey House operated by the Salvation Army and Lynn's Place operated by the YWCA were given mortgage-free buildings worth millions of $$ by the Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition. Both organizations receive $200,000 core funding each year to provide wrap-around services to tenants and both charge them between $900 - $1,700 a month in rent. Both organizations established rules that prevented the people they said they served from accessing their services and both lobbied to be excluded from the Residential Tenancies Act so they could evict people without cause and without notice. In fact, the Bailey House was half-empty for years as a result of the rules.

The City of Yellowknife lobbied to establish a day shelter where people who are intoxicated could go during the day, but many of the people hanging out in the banks and post office say they are banned from going to the facility. No doubt because they were violent, but then what do you expect when people under the influence are gathered together under one roof. The day shelter concept is on its 4th version so what else do you need to know to tell you it is the wrong approach.

Aside from the shelter and transition house, the Salvation Army is funded to delver a withdrawal management program for people with addictions and a residential program for people struggling with mental illness and mental health problems. Two of the women from the shelter at the Centre for Northern Families lasted a week before they were unceremoniously tossed to the street with their belongings packed in garbage bags.

Then you have Stanton Territorial Hospital that either refuses to admit people with mental illness or boots them out within a day or two - in theory well enough to survive, but in reality killing themselves once they are out the door. In addition, the Tree of Peace offers addiction and wellness programs and has a complete monopoly on deciding who and when people will go for treatment. Yellowknife Health and Social Services has staff assigned to coordinate services for adult people with mental illness and disabilities and Family Counselling has a number of counsellors who won't get out of their office. There is also a healing program for men who use violence in relationships and a healing program for residential school survivors.

Whew!!! Imagine what that looks like to MLAs outside of Yellowknife who have to explain to their constituents why there are no services in the smaller communities.

Now for those who persistently portray that I am a complainer without offering solutions, I offer this: Make the services who have been given taxpayer $$ accountable for their non-service. The RCMP is not responsible for addressing addictions, but they are responsible for community safety. They need to step up and do their job…."

George Lessard
Suite 108, 600 Gitzel St, (Ft Gary apts)
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
X1A 2R4
Cell/text/iPhone /FaceTime # (867) 445-9193

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