Editorial – Summer brings the vagrants

Jeff Burgar

Can anything be done about High Prairie’s ‘Bridge Crew?’

The short answer, at least as far as police chit-chatting with the High Prairie Chamber of Commerce recently, is, “Not really. Not unless they are doing something against the law.”

Of course, there might be local loitering bylaws that might kick in. Which mostly means, push the problem from one suffering business down the street to another business and make them suffer a bit. There are also more serious tools of charging bad guys and girls with uttering threats, mischief, vandalism and even littering. All of which are a pain in the butt, and even a waste of police resources in many cases.

Meanwhile, one should not think High Prairie, or any community, is unique. All have their issues with the homeless. People from one community don’t recognize the vagrants and hobos in another community because first, they don’t see them each day, and second, they aren’t looking for them.

The three or four who make up HP’s “crew” in winter are pretty well known to everybody. Thus, they are a “problem.”

There is always discussion how people end up being homeless. For some, there is no choice. Out of work. No family. Addictions. Mental health issues, may all play a role. For others, it is an easy choice. No ambition needed. Feed the drug or booze habit. Forget about the past. Don’t worry about the future. Research is constant and endless. If there were answers, there would not be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, filling tent cities and downtown zones of warmer places.

Canadian comedian, philosopher Richard Needham says, “If you pay people to fall down, it should be no surprise they keep falling down.”

This might indicate shutting down welfare, shelters, and free food programs is a good idea. Except one does not want to turn away a starving person, or leave them out in the cold when it is -40C.

Also, is it fair to shut down good programs serving real needs because a few bad apples might slip through the cracks? We don’t think so.

Putting unwanted on a bus to someplace else wasn’t really a good idea, even if former premier Ralph Klein liked it. If it worked, all that would happen was other places would start sending their own crop over to us.

So far, the best anybody comes up with is “Tough Love.” No business or centre or community has to be a welcoming place for hobos. Neither do they have to be cruel.

Any community has its core group of “homeless” because, well, that’s their home. The rest, passing through or trying it on, need not be welcome. Buying a meal for, or tossing coins, at a beggar usually means they have more money for their addictions. Jail, when warranted, takes them away from their friends and especially, their booze, which leads to better behaviour. It’s a balance between sensitivity to those less fortunate, and refusing to be a patsy or pushover.

Comments are welcome.

 

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