As the freezing weather continues in the southeast, the sad truth is that some people are without shelter, and without options.
Irene Kroeker of Steinbach Community Outreach personally knows of eight meth addicts who have no home come nightfall and says she is sure there are many more.
“While it is still true that homeless people in Steinbach have options and that they are well taken care of, there is one area that is not being addressed: drugs. When you are high on meth, you are unable to access these dry organizations.”
Kroeker says she has been approached by a few sets of parents who are worried for their kids who are sleeping in lobbies and trying their best to stay alive but can give them no real solution. Steinbach simply does not have the infrastructure to deal with this problem.
As this issue grows throughout southeastern Manitoba, Kroeker is becoming increasingly aware of the good things being done by locals.
According to Kroeker, One meth addict told her that after sleeping a night in a bank lobby, curled up in the floor mat, he woke up to a jug of chocolate milk that had been placed for him in the entryway. On a different morning, the same man was treated to a box of pizza for breakfast.
Similarly, Steinbach EMC consistently opens their doors to the homeless by providing them with church juice and temporary shelter during work hours.
Steinbach Online received still another report that a few evenings ago, an anonymous RCMP officer took a meth user into the warmth of Tim Hortons where they shared coffee, donuts, and conversation.
Though these heart-warming stories are rising in popularity, Kroeker feels these small acts will not get to the crux of the problem.
Teen Challenge Program Director Tony Schaefer deals with addiction on a daily basis and admits that Steinbach is no stranger to the meth crisis.
“Steinbach definitely has a problem,” states Schaefer, “We do get a lot of clients from southern Manitoba. It’s definitely a large problem in the smaller communities.”
Schaefer continues, “Giving a person a place to stay is great and improves their quality of life, but it doesn’t actually do anything to stop their dependence on drugs.”
Many people are under the impression that providing additional housing for drug addicts will help them get off the streets, but Schaefer calls this solution “superficial”.
On the other hand, long term residential programs have proved themselves to work where most other methods fail. It is paramount that an addict is removed from their environment and its associated habits before beginning the road to recovery. This is why Schaefer advocates for Teen Challenge. He also stresses that the individual needs to make the decision themselves.
“People are unresponsive to force and if they don’t consider themselves to have a problem, why on earth would they change anything?”
Unfortunately, Teen Challenge is in Winnipeg and Steinbach has the problem right here, right now. Kroeker says many committees throughout Steinbach have begun meeting and discussing practical ways they can help addicts in need.
While Schaefer and Kroeker agree that the options for Steinbach residents with crippling addictions are limited, they both feel the small signs of compassion from local individuals can play a part in their recovery.