There was an incident a few weeks ago where construction workers chased an alleged thief all the way to a known drug house on Glenwood Street behind Bernard elementary.
When police arrived, the denizens of this particularly notorious crack shack (the scene of a homicide last July, no less) spilled out onto the front lawn like bears emerging from a winter’s sleep. Or zombies staggering out of a tomb.
Groggy. Pasty. Eyes sensitive to the light.
They were cuffed and left to sit or lie on the grass, chatting and sleeping.
At the end of the arrest of the alleged thief, the “residents” were uncuffed. Slowly they wandered back inside to do, well, whatever it was they were doing.
And while houses like this, maintained by landlords like this, are the scourge of many a neighbourhood, it occurred to me at that time a question: If the 20-or-so, likely all drug-addicted people were not in this house, where would they be?
Many if not most of these are among the large demographic who are not homeless but who teeter on that precipice.
Let’s call them the precariously housed.
Over the years I’ve covered a number of stories on neighbourhood concerns about this or that drug house, and many are eventually cleaned up.
There was Ivan and Ann Coutu in spring 2015 complaining about the crack shack next door on the corner of First Avenue and Broadway Street.
There was the problem house on Chesterfield Avenue, which was eventually demolished and is now an empty lot.
A resident from across the street at Green Gables Motel & Trailer Park expressed to me her fear that the city was going to crack down with building inspections and that they, too, will be out. For her, that will likely mean being homeless.
We simply can’t have largescale illegal drug use and the requisite theft that comes with it in houses in our residential neighbourhoods.
And call it neighbourhood improvement or call it gentrification, change is slowly coming all over Chilliwack. It has to.
But if the improvements to the community don’t come with the parallel affordable housing projects in significant numbers, along with a government focused on mental health and addiction treatment, these people living on the margins, living in large groups in dire situations in run-down houses will be out on the streets.
Every community has this issue.
I offer no answers here but to say that as one-by-one, drug houses are demolished or renovated, we will have more and more homeless on the streets.
It may not be long until the Glenwood denizens of yesterday become the homeless of tomorrow.
Paul Henderson is a reporter with the Chilliwack Progress.