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StreetPerson 3rdAve 30Aug22 01

Dear Owen Sound Hub,

I am writing to you today in hopes to change the narrative around Owen Sound and other parts of the Province regarding the dialog and narratives people have regarding our vulnerable populations such as; people experiencing homelessness, people struggling with addiction and substance use and people dealing with their mental health.

Working in the field of social work in many different capacities I have seen and heard a lot of troubling and very disturbing comments and views from members of the public regarding people in those categories. Writing this I hope I can voice some facts and positive statements to change the very troubling and negative narrative that so many people are stuck on. Many different people come from different walks of life, different traumas and experiences and overall different lifestyles. There is no perfect lifestyle nor is there a perfect person.

When someone is homeless they are in a very fragile and overall traumatizing situation especially in this cold winter weather. The stigma I continue to hear is our homeless community "are all on drugs and don't wanna work". That statement is the biggest and outright disturbing lie I have ever heard in my lifetime. I have been working in this field for over five years and also was previously homeless a couple of  times in my life and I can say not every homeless person struggles with addiction. There are so many other factors involved then just addiction and substance use. A lot of it includes financials, trauma, health and current government laws and operations that lead to someone becoming homeless.

As for substance use and addiction I am getting tired of people referring to these people as "junkies" or "drug addicts" when in fact these individuals are victims of narcotic traffickers' abuse and manipulation. Anyone can become an addict and addiction doesn't just stem from substances made illegally on the street. Do you smoke? Drink wine? Go to buy lottery tickets? Do you go to the strippers or watch adult films? All of those can become an addiction as well but somehow in society we have drifted away from the importance of providing care and support for people with addiction to the shame and blame game.

This is not only inhuman but very disturbing. Why should someone thats addicted to street narcotics be treated differently then someone that drinks two bottles of wine a night to get wasted or someone that smokes so much weed they pass out. All of these are addictive as well.

Mental health is another factor that many people don't understand or are just overall disgusting with their views on someone with mental health challenges. Mental health is a health care concern that should be addressed by the appropriate people that work within the healthcare / diagnosing field. I personally think we need to really take a walk in peoples shoes that deal with any of these issues and then think about what kind of a narrative you want moving forward.

Our society has become so hateful and disrespectful that we have totally lost our abilities to be compassionate and respectful. Even mindfulness has gone out the window for many people. How can we change this? If you're unfamiliar with a topic or a person's situation, there is nothing wrong with a little research or asking around to see if someone with lived experience could help you understand better.

I personally like TED Talks or researching PhD (Doctorate) papers on topics that I need to learn more about. We must stop stigmatizing, spreading hatred and making these vulnerable groups feel like they are from a different planet. They are humans too. We need to show them just as much respect as we show everyone else.

My favorite quote from one of my post secondary professors was "you can become part of the solution or remain part of the problem."

We need to love more and hate less.

Jacob Morris-Wheeler, CYW, Owen Sound

photograph: David Galway




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