It is interesting how four different matters arrived at my desk this week that are all connected in an odd way and speak to serious social issues in High Prairie.
The first was a series of photos from a local merchant. He is frustrated over the street people in town. Petty theft, sleeping in the lobbies of banks, and aimlessly wandering the streets all day. We have all seen them and know who they are. They are, in fact, a royal pain in the you-know-what!
Second, on page 22 is the court docket. The headline reads, ‘Everyone needs a break from you’ in reference to one of the homeless. The quote is from the judge, who notes it was not the first time the man was before him for sentencing.
Surprise! Surprise! Truth be told, for each time this man has appeared before him it is likely he has committed the same offence several more times but it has gone unreported. Hence the merchant’s concerns.
If the judge thinks he is frustrated, how does he think the merchants feel? I have stepped over this man sleeping the bank lobby more than once and never phoned police.
Then on page 23, we are publishing a story from Nunavik, where a woman is petitioning to stop the sale of alcohol in her community. The reasons are obvious.
Then on Sept. 27, our sister paper, the Slave Lake Lakeside Leader, published the following: “Province to fund a homeless shelter in Slave Lake.’ Yes, Slave Lake has lobbied and persuaded the Alberta government to fund a municipally-operated homeless shelter. We have a similar albeit not as serious problem as Slave Lake. What did our council do? Nothing!
But a group of concerned people called the Homeless Coalition in Salve Lake got together and made something happen. Why not in High Prairie?
Now, before I go and put my foot in my mouth, I admit I am not an expert. It is safe to say; however, that many homeless have addictions problems whether it be drug or alcohol-related.
So, these stories are all related.
I am not against the sale of booze and sometimes enjoy a Smirnoff beverage myself. Unlike some unfortunate others, I have not fallen into the pit of despair called alcoholism.
It is easy yet truthful to note that alcoholism begins with that first drink and spirals out of control. It is not the seller’s fault. The vast majority of us drink responsibly. At one point, each and every person has decided in a sober condition to take the first drink. The reasons why are countless.
I am reminded of a conversation at a meeting years ago when a woman employed by AADAC in High Prairie (she still lives here!) noted not enough was being spent on addictions prevention. At the time I disagreed and said something like this:
“There has never been more education than today. We see it on TV, in newspapers, magazines, and people are in the schools. As a taxpayer, just how much money do we have to spend? When is enough enough? We can’t keep writing blank cheques.”
The problem is, the cost of dealing with addicts is far more than the cost spent on education and prevention, not to mention law enforcement. Over time, I have come to realize that the money spent on education and prevention is actually an investment, not an expense.
Today, in thinking about that conversation, I realize that the Alberta government’s efforts on addictions prevention is not what it was years ago. It has slipped dramatically. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is the largest presence on TV.
Which all leads back to the concerns expressed by the individuals, and the stories I referred to earlier. Are we doing enough or not enough?
Probably the latter. It needs to change.