This story is part of Fraser Health’s Compassion Matters campaign – a series of stories about compassion in the face of the overdose crisis, as told by some of those most impacted by the crisis. Read more of these stories.
Supervisor Dave Berar, City of Surrey By-law Enforcement Supervisor
Every morning, by-law officers, RCMP and Emergency Health Services team members walk up and down 135A Street to check on the people who are sleeping in tents on the street to make sure people are okay. We know everybody by name here, and everybody knows our names. As we walk, we call out to each tent and make sure that whoever is in the tent responds. If people don’t respond, we check to see if people are okay.
I’ve been in law enforcement for 21 years. There’s a difference now in our approach when it comes to interacting with people living on the streets and using drugs. We want to treat everyone like a human being, to treat people the way we’d like to be treated. There was no trust before; we couldn’t even get people to share their names with us.
Since we took Core Addiction Practice training with Fraser Health, which supports service providers in their work with clients who have substance use issues, things have been different. We realized that a hard approach isn’t going to be that effective when you’re engaging with people with complex mental health and addiction problems.
I realize that many of the people who live on 135A Street have no place to go that is safe and supportive. Many people come from broken families, abuse and trauma. You’re lucky if you can go home to a stable home: for a lot of people, that doesn’t happen.
Sergeant Trevor Dinwoodie, Surrey RCMP
You’re not going to get far helping people if you’re not compassionate. So much of it is about building trust. We’re working with people who have experienced a lot of trauma – it’s not like you can just walk in and because you have a uniform on, people are going to trust you.
Every relationship I have is built on trust. The relationships I have with the people on 135A Street are no different. When I introduce myself to people here I tell people my name is Trevor. Just Trevor. It’s not so authoritative, and hopefully it lets people see me as I am. Follow-through is important. It’s my first order of business with people. If I say I’m going to do it; I do it. That’s how you create trust.
Addiction is a physical dependence; not a choice.
If you look at people -- really look at people -- you realize that everyone is somebody’s mother, son, father, daughter. I started looking at it from that perspective and it made me think of my own family. That has been grounding.