Editor, The Gazette:
An open letter to the Mayor and council and the citizens of Grand Forks and area
We were disturbed to return home from a summer trip to hear about the controversy surrounding the lease shared by Whispers of Hope and BETHs voluntary help groups.
Our area shares with almost every community in Canada the issue of homelessness. The only cities that dare claim to have eliminated the problem are those like Medicine Hat which have been proactive in dealing with it. And they certainly have not done that by cancelling the good work of caring citizens.
Why do homeless people end up in our valley? Face it: some of them were born here! Others have come for the same reason the rest of us have come: a lovely area, good climate, and, I hope, friendly and compassionate people. They certainly have not come because they have heard of Whispers of Hope or the BETHS shelter!
When we volunteered with Inn From the Cold in Calgary, a service supported by seventy churches, synagogues and mosques, we learned that many of us are ourselves just one paycheck away from homelessness. Most homeless people do not pick that as a lifestyle of choice. They fall into it through circumstance, loss of work, unwise decisions, ill health, and often things beyond their control. Some, but by no means most, have mental health issues. Mental illness can hit any of our families at any time; it is as prevalent as cancer and heart disease, and successive governments have closed mental health hospitals and said, “They are better off being treated in local communities.” Treated? How and by whom?
If our community says they don’t want these citizens to reach out to the homeless, they will not disappear. Their struggles will simply increase and they will find it harder to find resources and help.
Have you been to Whispers of Hope and BETHs? These places are clean, well-run, and well-supported by many in our community. Citizens donate clothing, money and time. They do not cause traffic or parking problems. They are a compassionate response to and not a cause of a serious social problem. To make it difficult or impossible for them to continue will be an uncaring and irresponsible act. Many will see it as self-serving.
We live in Area D. We do almost all our shopping in Grand Forks, we eat out in town and attend concerts and use the library and health care system; we are very active in a local church. We like this place very much. But we hope it will deserve a strong reputation for caring and compassion, not selfish indifference.
Please be proactive in support of Whispers of Hope and BETHs shelter.
Bob and Trisha Purdy