As always, my first duty as Captain is to welcome you to Safe Harbour, an organization made up of a group of people who are dedicated to shining their lights in their community.

Shining our lights is a phrase we use often around the Harbour. For each of us it means something different. In every program and with every individual we come in contact with, we adjust our lights accordingly. I’m not only referring to the people we serve but also to the broader community. There are a lot of dark spaces in Red Deer and they are not only occupied by the people we serve.

Red Deer has had a small town feel to it for a very long time. It was the reason I moved here. Through the years we’ve grown into a thriving city with big city issues. They aren’t new issues there are just more of them. In the mid 90’s I was doing a mobile needle exchange in Red Deer. I traversed every neighbourhood in Red Deer. The affluent people who were injecting used my service rather than be seen buying the quantity of needles they needed. The general public was amazed at that time that such a service was necessary. During those days I was rarely downtown, the problem was widespread throughout the city. That was 20 years ago.

Our City has grown; no doubt about it and it will continue to do that. With that growth comes need and it is vital for all of us in this community to accept that and plan accordingly. If we continue to be afraid of solutions that are outside the social norm, where these people live, we will be wasting our time, and too much time has been wasted already. Stigma, discrimination and shame are the blankets the people we serve are covered with and their burdens are heavy. Their families experience the same.

If we work together on connecting these people to our broader community rather than disconnecting them, change will start to happen.  A Tibetan piece of knowledge fits here.

“The root of all suffering comes from the belief that we are disconnected.”

This all sounds nice and wonderful until my truck gets stolen, or my addicted kid steals my money, or I see needles at the splash park where children play. At those times my compassion will get swallowed up by my fears. That’s not wrong; it’s just not helpful to stay there too long without doing anything to help.  

Our biggest challenge as a community is to accept that people who are addicted are sick. Their brains aren’t working properly. Everything in their lives is secondary to the addiction. We don’t understand that because we aren’t there. We can prioritize our lives not because we have more willpower or strength or magical powers. We can do it because we were lucky enough to have our brains fed with what they needed to develop. Brains need 3 things to work properly, glucose, oxygen and relationship.

When fear becomes the dictator of service or lack of service we are guilty of cowardice. Martin Luther King once said that

“Darkness cannot dispel darkness. Only light can do that.”

That means we must be brave enough to meet our challenges head on and appropriately. It is the collective “we” I’m referring to. Safe Harbour cannot solve all the problems the City is experiencing; neither can the RCMP or Alberta Health or the City of Red Deer. It is all of us working together and providing our unique solutions to this very complicated and complex health issue that will make a difference. As complicated as it is we must be diligent in providing collaborative and innovative strategies.

Remember that we serve 6 types of people at Safe Harbour. Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.  Safe Harbour is dedicated to keep our lights shining on them.

It would be lovely to have you join us in that effort. Shine your unique light into the Harbour; help us as we do our best to make sure no one struggles alone. Be a part of the solution, be a Harbour Light!

Until next time, steady as she goes.