City Councilor Alex Bierk put out a call on Twitter for donations from the community for "encampment support," posting a list that included weed, alcohol, cigarettes and more.
"We need to meet the needs of individuals living outside and not impose our own perceptions," the post reads, along with a picture of three cases of beer and the itemized list:
Today there’s a need for:
Convenient hot food
Weed and alcohol
The politician in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, did not hesitate to defend his charitable actions on Twitter or in subsequent statements to the Peterborough Examiner.
People "are going to drink regardless. Can u imagine being in withdrawal in this weather in a tent? Or panhandling or collecting cans all day etc..etc..to get a few tall cans," Bierk said in response to a critical comment, which remarked "alcohol is dangerous with hypothermia and frost bite."
The first-term councilor, who says he is a recovering addict, told the Examiner that he didn't donate any weed or alcohol himself, but he did hand out "some tall cans of beer to people I know living outside."
Bierk deferred inquiries to a different activist for the donations.
"People have a right to survive, and if there’s a need for booze and weed, I’m OK with that,” Bierk told another naysayer.
Bierk also said that alcohol used to provide him with the "illusion of warmth," adding that "alcohol and weed offers temporary relief" from problems such as "medical needs, mental health, anxiety, [and] trauma."
Fellow city councilors were not quick to judge, however, offering minimal criticism and largely withholding commentary.
“Personally, do I think it’s something he should be doing, as a councillor? No,” said Councilor Dave Haacke, "but I’m not the final authority on it," he added.
Councilor Matt Crowley called it "counterintuitive" but said he would defer to Bierk's judgment on the subject.
“I believe Coun. Bierk is the only person who should comment on this," said Mayor Jeff Leal in a text message.
The councilor, who is also a part-time artist, took issue with previous publications not mentioning that he handed out "candy, protein bars, survival gear, warm clothes, [and] money," along with a card his son made for one of the homeless people at the encampment.
Bierk describes himself on himself on his social media profiles as "high level" and "high energy."
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