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LETTER: Helping our most vulnerable reduces crime

From reader Yvonne Shewfelt…
The North Shore Inn in Nelson is owned by BC Housing and managed by the Nelson CARES Society. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Re: YEAR IN REVIEW: Nelson Police Department officers investigated for racism, excessive force, Dec. 29, 2022

In reading the latter half of this article (“Nelson is experiencing its lowest crime rate in over two decades”), I can not help but wonder about the correlation between the crime statistics and the BC Housing COVID-19 initiative that provided long-term shelter to Nelson’s most vulnerable and on the street individuals by the purchase of the North Shore Inn.

Prior to moving to Nelson 30 years ago, one of my last positions was as research officer for a study that followed 120 individuals with serious mental health challenges for two years after discharge from a hospital or multiple ER encounters. Half the group were provided Assertive Case Management (ACM) follow-up, a service supported by the Mental Health Services Division of the Ministry of Health. The other half went in to the usual stream, which may have been a referral to a Community Mental Health Centre and may have resulted in office-based follow-up.

Part of the study (with consent of all participants) involved a cost-benefit analysis that tracked participants’ contacts with law enforcement province wide. The difference of contact numbers and hours between the individuals with intense support and the people with little or no support were stark and revealing.

With my dusty recall, and no access to the old data, my memory serves that the law enforcement contacts and time with the ACM supported group was reduced by some 70 per cent. This experience was the first circumstance that popped into my head when reading the absence of explanation for the dramatic decline in the Statistics Canada crime severity index.

It is amazing what transformations can happen when the grind of day-to-day survival is lifted by just attaining steady shelter and predictable support provided by Nelson CARES staff.

Yvonne Shewfelt