This blog post jogged my memory of a dream I had last night. Ok, not quite a dream, more of one of those epiphanies you have just as you're dozing off.
I woke up long enough to jot some criptic notes down on my iPhone, which is blindingly bright by the way, after your eyes have adjusted to darkness. The notes types into my iPhone last night are "the perfect storm", "poorest postal code in Canada, DTES", "residential schools & multigenrational trauma", "port city", "warm weather". That's it. That was my epiphany.
All of these things, I believe, have combined to create the Perfect Storm of drug addiction and homelessness in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES). Yes, I realize that its not BIG news to most. Indeed even to me, in the clear brightness of day it seemed kind of obvious. But maybe that's the problem. We just shrug and go "ya, so, we all grok the connection". But do we, really?
I was ready to put this post on the back burner when I came across the Homeless Cannot Happen to Just Anyone blog post. Dave Henderson, the author of the post says right up front that "military veterans account for an estimated 26 percent of the homeless population while comprising only 11 percent of the general population". What are the numbers for the Aboriginal population in the DTES? Bet they're higher.
Unlike Verterans Affairs we have done a very poor job of quantifying homelessness by (cultural) history. The Veterans Affairs folks know exactly who went to war, who saw action and what the longitudinal outcomes were and are. I've been working with Aboriginal and First Nations communities for decades and based on my experiences no one really knows how many of the homeless and drug dependent folks in the DTES have been impacted by multigenerational trauma. I think at some level we may be afraid to find out.
If we do find out by say doing an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study and the results come back suggesting that the majority of folks in the DTES have scored in four or more catagories and that the vast majority had scored in the most impactful of the catagories - abandonment, other than by death of parent/caregiver, what would we HAVE to do?
I mean face it. We can't change Vancouver's weather, if we could the IOC would have done it already. We can't change the coastline, we will always be a Port city with better than avergae access to just off the boat drugs. We can't change the past however we can provide services and supports that have proven time and again to work to help people put trauma in context and to heal from it.
InSite is one example of a service that is using best practices to connect with people who are most affected by homelessness, addiction and have a history of complex trauma that in most cases began with an adverse childhood experience.
We need more of these kinds of relational based services, not less.