LETTER: More compassion for those who are suffering, please

Those of us who have a voice have a duty to speak up against the abuse of those who don’t

The Editor,

Re: “Fountain flows again,” the Now-Leader, Aug. 4.

I am a fourth-year criminology student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and I have been working on an advocacy project over the last three months regarding the treatment of the homeless population on the Surrey Strip. I have spent time talking to the people living on the Strip, asking them to share about their experiences living there. Most of the people I met there were more than happy to talk to me and were grateful to hear that people were fighting to have their voices heard.

Due to a lack of media coverage, the average citizen is not aware of what is really going on the Surrey Strip these days. The City of Surrey have turned the Surrey Strip into an open-air prison where the population is systematically contained (I’ve heard homeless who try to set up camps in other areas of the city are brought to the Strip), under constant police surveillance (RCMP have set up a detachment on The Strip and routinely stop and search the population who live there), and essentially steal from the homeless by using bylaw infractions to control what these people own and to seize what they deem a violation (the people living in tents are not allowed to have furniture or cooking supplies).

Not re-installing the street’s water fountain this summer, until just last week, because of the claim people were bathing in it just shows how petty the City of Surrey has been in its quest to control and abuse this marginalized population. The fentanyl epidemic in B.C. has forced our government to allocate more funding toward this medical issue, which is good news for those at risk. The only problem is that we seem to still be stuck in the failed “War on Drugs” policy, as more of that funding goes toward policing instead of health care.

The Surrey Outreach Team sounds like a noble movement, as the homeless population on the Surrey Strip desperately needs help for a variety of socio-economic issues. One would think that the Surrey Outreach Team would mostly consist of medical, mental health and social workers, but instead it is comprised of 12 RCMP officers who work the Strip 24/7, four bylaw officers (10 hours/day), and Fraser Health and Emergency Health Services personnel.

I am glad to hear 800 people signed the petition to have the water fountain turned back on. I am glad to hear that the petition was successful and that the water fountain is operational again. As a former addict who has spent time on the streets, I am appalled at the way our government treats people with mental health issues. The lives of people suffering from such issues are tough enough; we don’t need the government abusing us anymore than we have already been.

I don’t know how the people who decide to employ such petty and abusive tactics against one of the most victimized populations sleep at night. I have never met a person who aspired to be suffering from mental health, addiction and/or homelessness. We don’t always have control over all our life circumstances. We need to have more compassion for those who are suffering, and those of us who have a voice have a duty to speak up against the abuse of those who don’t.

If you are interested in this issue, we have created a Facebook page called “Citizens Against The Criminalization of Poverty in Surrey.” Please check it out and help carry our message.

Andrew Lawrence

Just Posted

Surrey moves to ban sleeping overnight in RVs, motorhomes on city streets

Proposal comes amid complaints about homeless people living in recreational vehicles

Students, volunteers plant 300 trees in White Rock park

City partnership to ‘mimic the natural growth’ of Ruth Johnson Park

$50,000 reward for ‘extremely violent’ South Surrey murder suspect renewed

Offer for information on Brandon Teixeira to remain in effect through April, 2020

Surrey restaurant owner who pointed handgun at staff loses court appeal

Jawahar Singh Padda tried to get his 30-month sentenced reduced

South Surrey man allows smart meter installation ‘under duress’

BC Hydro says devices emit fraction of radio frequency from a cellphone

ELECTION 2019: It’s so close, it could come down to who turns out to vote

Black Press Media’s polling analyst on the origins of predictive seat modelling in Canada

Jack’s Devils beat Quinn’s Canucks 1-0 in NHL brother battle

New Jersey youngster scores first career goal against Vancouver

Two charged after owner’s wild ride through Kamloops in his stolen truck

Crystal Rae Dorrington, 37, and Derrick Ronald Pearson, 32, facing multiple charges

Kamloops Blazers blank Vancouver Giants

A loss on the road for G-men

Man found dead inside Richmond business, IHIT investigating

Police believe the incident was not random

Judge orders credit union’s bank records for Kelowna social worker facing theft allegations

The man is accused of negligence, breach of contract, fraud and a conspiracy with Interior Savings

Leaders pour it on with rallies, boosts for candidates as campaign reaches peak

The federal election campaign has reached a crescendo

Allegations of racism lead to ministry investigation at Vancouver private school

St. George’s School was contacted over what the school describes as ‘deeply offensive behaviour online’

Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta

Edmonton police estimated the size of the crowd at about 4,000

Most Read