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A real community hero on our streets

Trevor Charles is a true hero.

He has likely saved more lives in Prince George than anyone outside the health care profession … 16 lives in the past three years.

Like most heroes, he’s unassuming and doesn’t see himself as a hero … he’s just doing what needs to be done.

And when we hand out awards at the end of the year, Charles likely won’t be heading up to a podium to collect a nice trophy. It likely wouldn’t mean anything to him anyway.

Charles is, to put it mildly, rough around the edges. He smokes, he just had a bunch of rotten teeth pulled. He’s one of those guys who most of us try to avoid when we head downtown around Third and George.

But, when we talk about dealing with the opioid crisis hitting every community in the land, Charles is one of the warriors on the front line of that battle.

He is a peer counsellor for Positive Living North.

One of the things he does, and does very well, is get to people who have overdosed and bring them back to life. He isn’t far removed from that lifestyle himself and he personally knows many of the people he has to save.

Vanessa West of Positive Living North says Charles is pretty much like first responder. When news hits that someone downtown has overdoses, Charles can usually get to them before the actual first responders do.

Fentanyl is a killer and time is crucial when someone has overdosed.

Everyone else can debate the issue of drug use, decriminalization, or legalization.

“I don’t want to lose any friends,” he says. “Something has to be done.”

So here’s the irony. Ottawa, in its infinite wisdom, could spell the end of people like Charles helping their friends.

Ottawa, which funds the harm reduction program that Charles works under, wants all of its peer counsellors to have a university degree.

What part of ‘peer’ do the folks in Ottawa not understand? Granted, not everyone who has a drug problem is a street person or living a marginal existence. But some are, and those are the people who Charles is helping by saving their lives.

“The fact that our peers are still alive and able to provide service and help others, that is their education, that is their degree,” says West.

The next time you see MP Todd Doherty or MP Bob Zimmer, you might want to mention the name Trevor Charles, one of our community’s true heroes, and tell our elected officials that Charles needs just a little understanding and a little help to continue saving lives in our community.

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