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EDITORIAL: Helping hands for the homeless

Congratulations to homeless advocates who are thinking outside of the box.

Congratulations to homeless advocates who are thinking outside of the box. While the rest of us go about our daily business, many in the volunteer and non-profit sectors are looking for ways to provide homeless people with services that many of us take for granted, such as banking, dental work and health care.

While it would be easier to provide some of these services if the transition housing and shelter planned for Coquitlam city land at 3030 Gordon Ave. were built, that project is unfunded and still a long way from opening its doors.

In the meantime, efforts are being made to provide these services in other ways to the Tri-Cities' transient population.

The Hope for Freedom Society, for example, with support from the Laurel Foundation, is providing the services of an outreach psychiatric nurse assess homeless clients' mental health needs.

Hope for Freedom has also identified local health clinics that will now accept patients who are homeless, and the organization, which provides outreach and support to homeless people, is also working on organizing a dental care program. It has received donations of equipment and supplies, and engaged the help of four dentists.

Meanwhile, Coquitlam council has once again given the nod to the temporary cold/wet weather mat program so local churches can continue to offer a warm place to stay in winter while Vancity credit union is in talks with The Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group to see if a way can be found to provide banking services for individuals with no identity documents.

Other more controversial services are also being provided, such as a needle exchange to help prevent the spread of blood-born diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C among intravenous drug users. Philosophically, it's difficult to applaud a program that gives tacit support to harmful drug use but, practically, it makes sense to provide health services to people who are already struggling with addiction.

In the end, the true worth of a community is not its accumulated wealth but the ways in which individuals reach out to others to provide dignity and hope for all - even those with no fixed address.