LETTERS: Needs of unhoused must be met with compassion, respect

Language matters in conversations about those who are less fortunate


Re: “Businesses struggle with ‘undesirables,’ Nov. 4

The word choice surrounding these people in our community experiencing homelessness is harmful and damaging. Reducing someone to just a “homeless person,” or in the words of a local business owner “undesirables” is the peak of dehumanization.

The increase in people needing housing in our community (especially during the pandemic) need to be met with love, empathy and compassion – or basic respect at the very least.

The first, and easiest thing we can do to help improve compassion in our community is change our language. The people that are experiencing addiction and homelessness are not “addicts,” or “junkies.” These people are humans, just like every one of us that are privileged enough to have a roof over our heads, and deserve the same respect and decency as anyone else.

We need to address the opioid epidemic. Despite what residents may like to think, White Rock and South Surrey are not immune to the impacts of the opioid crisis. Instead of framing the need for Naloxone kits in workplaces as a negative thing, we can focus on the positive impact of Naloxone kits and training. These kits save thousands of lives across British Columbia alone. Perhaps we should create a standard of society being able to respond to overdoses in the same way that CPR is a standard response to any other public medical emergency. As per the BC Coroner’s most recent statistics, there have been approximately 13 drug poisioning deaths in South Surrey/White Rock in the past five years, and in the first half of 2021 alone, over 1,000 drug toxicity deaths in the province. This is too many – and this is precisely what Naloxone training and public access to kits can help fight against.

It’s time for us as a community to meet these social issues with compassion, logic and empathy. Meeting people who are in pain with further cruelty and degradation is the least productive and humane way to approach the issues of drug use/addiction and houselessness.

Eilidh Hatch, Surrey

Letter to the Editor