'ALL WE'RE DOING IS SETTING THESE PEOPLE UP TO FAIL'
KELOWNA - News from Kelowna RCMP that a drug market has sprung up in the downtown cultural district on the periphery of the red zone exclusion area is no surprise to Lia Froese.
“Where else are they going to go? They’re being pushed out and they’re not given alternatives,” Froese says, adding her voice to those critical of the red zone.
Kelowna RCMP allege the dealers are primarily those with red zone restrictions, an exclusion order often given by a judge to repeat offenders and street-level drug dealers.
But Froese says the organization she works for, All Are Family Outreach, deal with street people all the time who are prevented from properly accessing basic services by the exclusion.
Froese says some are physically harmed by it, giving up on medical appointments because of the barriers to showing up for them.
“Sure you can get exemptions but they are extremely restrictive like you’re allowed 20 minutes to go to the Gospel Mission to get a meal,” Froese says. “Who can live like that? As soon as they enter the zone, they get harassed, so they move outside the zone."
Froese says the resulting dislocation isolates them, breaking what little social connections they might have and making them more likely, not less, to reoffend.
“They no longer have that core connection, they're on their own. Now they’re outside the zone, they’re distrustful, more bitter, more angry,” she says.
Froese recognizes the needs of downtown businesses, some of which complain of blatant drug dealing right outside their doors, but says a better solution would be to modify how the red zone is applied and to give those excluded some options beyond banishment.
“There has to be something in place for them. All we’re doing is setting these people up to fail. We think we’re getting rid of the problem but we’re just transplanting weeds into someone else’s lawn,” she adds.
All Are Family Outreach is sponsored by the Winfield Seventh Day Adventist Church and has been operating in the Central and North Okanagan for about two years.
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