Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Downtown Eastside Seeks Foreign Aid
October 18, 2007 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Vancouver group asks UN (rather than local government) to help homeless Canadians The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) met with United Nations representative Miloon Kothari this week and appealed to the UN to intervene on behalf of homeless people in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. via

Homelessness in Vancouver was estimated in 2007 to be at the level of approximately 1,500-2,000 people sleeping outside at night and hundreds more in shelters and couch surfing. It is expected to reach 3,000 by the year 2010, the year Vancouver will host the Winter Olympics.


There are no funding constraints. The suggested 3,200 units of social housing would cost $640 million. The provincial government is running a budgetary surplus this year of $4.1 billion. The federal government had a surplus of $6.4 billion in the first quarter of 2007.


Previously
posted by KokuRyu (43 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
And I thought Toronto politicians were dramatic. The UN?
posted by GuyZero at 10:31 AM on October 18, 2007


The hell with our City Council. *glares balefully at Sam Sullivan and crew*
posted by jokeefe at 10:38 AM on October 18, 2007


I guess they should have all moved to Calgary and got jobs.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:41 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


What will be done with the surpluses, otherwise? Canada owes $740 billion in debt. It looks like BC is using its surpluses to pay down debt and improve many public services.

Maybe using the UN to shame Canadian politicians into action on this will work, maybe not, but are the surpluses really being used poorly?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:41 AM on October 18, 2007


The situation is absolutely deplorable. The disparity between affluent slicker jocks and the poor in the city is nearing 3rd world levels. The city has zero commitment to affordable housing. People with absolutely nothing to fall back on are being squeezed out through general condofication. I salute them for this effort.
posted by limon at 10:48 AM on October 18, 2007


OK, here is a question I have been dying to ask on the blue. Vancouverites may remember the Anti-Poverty Committee's squat-protests last year where they occupied a few derelict abandoned buildings, opening them up as housing, to raise awareness and protest the issue. It caused a lot of controversy in the press. I occasionally read the 24 and Metro on the bus and read a back-and-forth on the letters to the editor page. Political activist types say we need more units of affordable housing in the downtown eastside. Sururban commuter types say why should they get to live downtown when I have to work my ass off just to afford a home for my family in coquitlam?

I thought about it but never came up with a good response to the latter question. I posed it to an economist friend of mine who I know is sympathetic to the homeless and he had no good answer either.

The main reason affordable housing is disappearing in the DTES is that the land is worth more if the old buildings are bulldozed and new condos are put up. Thus the owners are under economic pressure to pull the plug. Does it really make sense to continue subsidizing housing in an area of the city that is experiencing dramatic gentrification and thus upward pressure on rents? And if not, what the hell else can we do?
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:03 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


It looks like BC is using its surpluses to pay down debt and improve many public services...Maybe using the UN to shame Canadian politicians into action on this will work, maybe not, but are the surpluses really being used poorly?

Debt is a fact of life, and while it is good to pay it down, it is not inherently bad thing for a government to accrue. There has to be a balance between debt management and also paying for public services. The social welfare system in British Columbia has been drastically downsized over the past 15 years or so, and not just by the current neo-liberal regime, but also by the previous socialist-leaning government of the 1990s.

The situation really is deplorable (at least by Canadian standards), but the issue really is: Vanoc (the Olympic organizing committee) promised to build low-cost housing, and they decided that they will not. Something has to be done, either with providing better services and treatment for dual-diagnosis folks (those with addictions and mental illness) living on the street. A trip to Hastings and Main is like something out of a Bosch painting, and it doesn't have to be this way in one of the most affluent societies in the history of the planet.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


What public services — to which the surpluses otherwise are earmarked — would you shrink or eliminate to pay for housing and drug treatment targeted at this area?

Wouldn't the province as a whole benefit more from paying down its debt — and having less interest to pay, which can adequately pay for expanded services down the road? Is a little pain during a surplus now than a lot of belt-tightening during a deficit?

Vanoc (the Olympic organizing committee) promised to build low-cost housing, and they decided that they will not.

But that makes it sound like a contractual obligation or failure on the part of Vanoc, not the provincial or federal government. Why not lobby the governments to withhold funds from Vanoc, or have sponsorship funds put into escrow to deal with this? What can the UN do about an Olympic committee?

A trip to Hastings and Main is like something out of a Bosch painting, and it doesn't have to be this way in one of the most affluent societies in the history of the planet.

That's fair. I just don't get the sense from reading about it that BC is necessarily more wasteful about its surplus than any other government.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:20 AM on October 18, 2007


Does it really make sense to continue subsidizing housing in an area of the city that is experiencing dramatic gentrification and thus upward pressure on rents? And if not, what the hell else can we do?

I'd argue that it doesn't make much sense at all. Allowing city centers to remain economic ghettos is one of the things that drives suburbanization and its many evils: lots of people who may want to live in the city can't, and instead they drive sprawl far out into the suburbs.

The obvious solution would be to build subsidized housing on the edge of the cities; if you did it right, you could use it to expand high-density areas into what would otherwise just be low-density 'burbs.

However, I don't think that's really the solution. Building housing for people who can't afford it is just throwing a band-aid on a gaping economic wound. You're just going to make the situation worse in the long run.

What you need to do is increase mobility: figure out ways of letting the people who are unemployed either get to places where there are jobs that they can do, or help to train them so that they can do jobs where they are.

Having more people live in a city than there are jobs to support them benefits nobody. It creates a huge dead-weight loss, and it's particularly ridiculous given that (assuming your overall economy is healthy) there are probably other places they could live where they'd be employed and would be able to live independently.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:22 AM on October 18, 2007


Many of the dealers and users on the Downtown Eastside already live in quite decent subsidized suites. Not everybody, but those who do are still there. They are still dealing and using. Taking drugs is pleasant and easier than getting your life straightented out.

You could house everybody in the DES and it would still be a focus for drug use. The only way to get rid of this problem would be to put everyone in a line; sort out those who are mentally ill and put them in residential care while dealing with their addiction; offer those sound of mind and body intensive career counselling and give them the opportunity to be treated for their addiction.

Then raze the place and build million dollar condos. A cancerous tumour does not evolve into functioning organ. The downtown eastside is not going to evolve into a nice neighbourhood where the poor but hard working residents wave to the grocer as he sweeps the sidewalk in front of his store. No way, no how, never. The tumour needs to be excised and the surrounding tissue allowed to heal.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:26 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


What public services — to which the surpluses otherwise are earmarked — would you shrink or eliminate to pay for housing and drug treatment targeted at this area?

That's a tough one... All I can say is that there should be less emphasis on paying down debt, coupled with more emphasis on solving this problem.

The money is there, and it's all connected with the Olympics, which are subsidized by the government (Putin may become the next IOC chair, that's how evil this org is). If they have the cash to build subways and skating rinks, etc, as well as pump more than half a billion dollars *more than originally budgeted* into a conference center (this is not an exaggeration) some steps can be taken to address the open sore that is the Downtown Eastside.

As well, I would have to agree with you, Blazecock (if this is what you are saying) that the poverty activists linked to in the article are not particularly sophisticated, which is too bad. Often these guys just make the situation worse.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:32 AM on October 18, 2007


Why not lobby the governments to withhold funds from Vanoc

Yes, because governments at all levels are obviously going to withhold funds from an Olympic organizing committee. In other news, pigs can fly and my mother is Helen Mirren.

I don't have a whole lot of answers for PercussivePaul, but here are some shots in the dark to help get things started. First, you're dealing with a population with low social and financial mobility. Your middle-class family in Coquitlam could move to subsidized housing in the DTES or False Creek fairly easily; there's no way in hell a homeless person at Hastings and Main is going to cope well in Coquitlam. Second, for better or for worse, the DTES IS their neighbourhood; what that middle-class family in Coquitlam is advocating is basically tossing all these people out of the area so they can enjoy living closer to the city core. Aside from that touchy-feely reasoning, there's also a lot of resources for the DTES community that doesn't exist or is harder to access elsewhere (again, one of the problems with living in Coquitlam—you need a car to get everywhere). Moving people out of the area means they lose support networks and easy access to agencies and organizations they may depend on.

Third, variety and diversity is crucial to the success of a neighbourhood. Places like Commercial Drive and the West End thrive in part because there's a mix of residents—senior's homes sit beside luxury condos sit beside relatively cheap apartment complexes and basement apartments. Subsidized housing helps to keep diversity in a neighbourhood by ensuring that low-income families don't get priced out of the region.

Finally, no one's suggesting that condo development can't occur at all. Whenever anyone talks about subsidized housing, it's always in addition to market-price housing: set aside fifteen units in this condo development, or ten units in this apartment building, or what have you. So really the question isn't "how come that family from Coquitlam doesn't get to move downtown," but rather "how come that family from Coquitlam can't pay the same price for a downtown residence," which is an entirely different question that basically boils down to whether you think subsidized housing is a worthy endeavour at all.
posted by chrominance at 11:38 AM on October 18, 2007


Yes, because governments at all levels are obviously going to withhold funds from an Olympic organizing committee. In other news, pigs can fly and my mother is Helen Mirren.

It seems a more bizarre concept (to me) to have the UN indirectly shame an Olympic committee, to get progress, than to have your government put the money in escrow or otherwise conduct oversight.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:55 AM on October 18, 2007


Finally, no one's suggesting that condo development can't occur at all. Whenever anyone talks about subsidized housing, it's always in addition to market-price housing: set aside fifteen units in this condo development, or ten units in this apartment building, or what have you.

Chrominance, there's subsidized housing near Granville Island (I think it's still subsidized--those orangey buildings you see to the right as you come off the Hemlock on ramp to the Granville St. Bridge. As far as I know it works just as you describe: low-income families get to live in a nicer neighbourhood than they could otherwise afford, (more importantly) kids get to grow up in a better environment, and given the more egalitarian nature of Canadian society rich and poor are (more or less) happy.

The downtown eastside is an entirely different kettle of fish. How do you expect normally functioning people to move in and live next to crack and heroin users and prostitutes? Are the kids going to cheerfully say goodbye to mom and dad as they walk along Hastings to school?

Integration of rich neighbourhoods can work if it's the poor who move into an established wealthier neighbourhood. The other way around the poor neighbourhood gets taken over. I know people have bought units in the Woodwards development but I can't think of anyone who would venture any farther east unless it was abundantly clear the gentrification of the entire area was inevitable and just around the corner.

It would be nice if good intentions and government money could be use to turn the downtown eastside into the West End, giving hope and opportunity to all who live there. Not going to happen. And, given that this is some of the most desirable commercial and residential property in the world (downtown Vancouver's got nowhere to go but east) clearance of the current residents out of the area is inevitable. God help them.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:56 AM on October 18, 2007


All this is moot since both the municipal and provincial governments continue to ignore the completely broken mental health system.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:02 PM on October 18, 2007


Shame on Vancouver for allowing the DTES get to its cesspool status. Something drastic has to happen. I have sympathy for the mentally ill and working poor in the area who have to somehow live amongst the zombies, but the rest of them (and there's lots and lots of them) are just taking advantage of Vancouver's activist culture where even the drug addicts have a lobby group. (?!) The party never ends because everyone turns a blind-eye to it. WTF? There's even a shooting gallery where people can shoot-up in a safe environment; the equivalent of an infected, puss-filled band aid being placed on the problem. If this were a civilized city, the area would see a massive influx of money and smart programs to develop it into the world-class city it's supposed to be. Instead we have mass-apathy. Shame on Vancouver.

The land is waterfront, prime downtown real estate which should be worth billions - instead it's a nightmare-come-true, Escape From New York meets 28 Days Later shithole. Has anyone here ever been on the #20 bus? Yikes. In the 15 years that I have lived here, NOTHING has been done about the problem, perhaps the UN is the last hope.
posted by weezy at 12:14 PM on October 18, 2007


I can't think of anyone who would venture any farther east unless it was abundantly clear the gentrification of the entire area was inevitable and just around the corner.

I've met people who choose to live farther east. Mainly young anarchist types, but they are certainly 'functioning', and they will tell you that they walk alone without fear on Hastings and have never had any problems. And of course if you go far enough east and a bit south you hit Strathcona, which despite its proximity to Hastings is a colorful, functioning neighborhood, as far as I can tell.

Calling the DTES a tumor that needs to be excised doesn't sit well with me. For one thing, I question the practicality of integrating the poor into rich neighborhoods. The poor can't buy their way in and the rich who live don't want the poor in their backyards. Any government programs will meet with resistance. I fear the gentrification of the DTES is simple forcing out the poor. With nowhere else to go they wind up in Surrey, Nanaimo, Victoria (witness rising homeless in these cities).
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:20 PM on October 18, 2007


Man, it is CRAZY how many homeless there are in Vancouver these days. I've been going up there three of our times a year for maybe the last twenty years and every trip it really has been getting worse and worse. What the hell is up?
posted by tkchrist at 1:25 PM on October 18, 2007


I ride the #20 bus to work every day. I work at Union Gospel Mission, which is just a few blocks up the street from Hastings and Main (we're at Cordova & Princess). This organization does what it can, offering affordable housing, alcohol & drug recovery programs and more, and all without government funding. Placing the burden on non-profits like us, though, doesn't help things get done efficiently.

@ Turtles all the way down: You said, "Are the kids going to cheerfully say goodbye to mom and dad as they walk along Hastings to school?" No, but the families that live here find ways to function. I watch small pockets of families walking to Strathcona Elementary each morning; parents walking their kids to a school that is one block south from Hastings.
posted by Milkman Dan at 1:38 PM on October 18, 2007


tkchrist: previously discussed on AskMe.

weezy: The land is waterfront, prime downtown real estate which should be worth billions - instead it's a nightmare-come-true, Escape From New York meets 28 Days Later shithole. Has anyone here ever been on the #20 bus? Yikes.

I take the #3 bus fairly often. It's sad, but in my experience it's not dangerous. There's a lot of property crime, but not a lot of violent crime.

There's at least three different problems, all of which are tough to solve: unaffordable rents, drug addiction, mental illness. I sometimes wonder if Vancouver needs Singapore-style public housing; but that wouldn't deal with the problems of drug addiction and mental illness.
posted by russilwvong at 1:43 PM on October 18, 2007


I watch small pockets of families walking to Strathcona Elementary each morning; parents walking their kids to a school that is one block south from Hastings.

Milkman Dan: I'd rather see these families first in line for the subsidized housing spots made a required part of any residential development in the area. Strathcona would be a very good neighbour to a new residential/commercial redevelopment of the Hastings corridor. And it has Benny's market.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:33 PM on October 18, 2007



Btw, that injection center that someone up there claimed to be a "bandaid," according to the research is linked with reduced rates of HIV and dramatically increased rates of admission into addiction treatment.

Harm reduction doesn't look pretty-- but it saves lives. And attempting to separate the "mentally ill" from the "addicted" is a ridiculous enterprise-- there's a 50% overlap between these populations such that 50% of addicts are also mentally ill and 50% of the mentally ill are also addicts and the true rate of "comorbidity" may actually be even higher.

And even if you *did* tear down the whole thing and put up million dollar condos, you'd still have a good number of addicts living in them. But no one would care about it because they'd be rich addicts, not in your face and not causing the street disorder that the illegal drug trade results in amongst the homeless.
posted by Maias at 2:34 PM on October 18, 2007


Lots of others have said it upthread, but I want to reiterate that I believe the DTES has one problem and one problem only, mental illness. We help those people and everything else will sort itself. Or to put it another way, the situation will never become better until this problem is adequately addressed.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:39 PM on October 18, 2007


You're right, Maias, that no one would care about it. But you say that as if it's a bad thing, which it's not. A dysfunctional person that makes enough money to stay off the street is his own problem. The crackhead who breaks into my car for change is very much mine.

And please all don't hold me to the "million dollar condos" statement. I think what would be best is a redevelopment *with* subsidized housing and mix of residential and commercial. I was trying to make a point, though, that for the area to recover will require a dramatic and definitive act of public will. It will not recover by "treating the homeless." The problem is just too huge--there are too many destroyed lives there. The safe injection site has worked well, apparently, and has had some success in getting addicts into treatment. Has it done anything to improve the area as a whole?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:44 PM on October 18, 2007


Has the safe inject site done anything to improve the area as a whole? Of course it has. From Wikipedia:
Findings have shown that the site has led to a reduction of public injections, neighbourhood litter, and needle sharing.[2] It has also led to an increase in detoxification and addiction treatment,[3] and has not been shown to increase crime or rates of relapse in former drug users.[1]

And weezy, to call the DTES a result of "mass apathy" is a slap in the face to the dozens of non-profits and hundreds of volunteers (if not more) working to improve conditions there. I don't know a single person in Vancouver who is not aware of the problems there; I have met a good deal of people who have dedicated their lives to helping solve them.

What bothers me most is that I get the impression that a lot of people would advocate rounding up all of the problematic people and depositing them in some rehab program. Like we can just load up a few hundred buses and ship them all away. Then we can fix the neighborhood and make it like the rest of the west end.

Vancouver's impoverished come from all over the country. They come from places where they have no opportunities or see no place for themselves in the world. They take a bus as far west and as far south as they can get, and they wind up in the DTES. A disproportionate number of them are first nations.

Maybe our liberal culture encourages some of these people to come here and makes it too easy for them to destory their lives; maybe if they had no other place to go more of them would get clean. But I can't help shake the feeling that a lot of people are frightened of the DTES not because the people are so dangerous, but because they are so different, and if they would just stop being different things would be so much easier. Hence the sour taste in my mouth.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:54 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Many of comments upthread make my sick in a way that walking down Hastings St amidst the homeless and hustlers does not. Anyone salivating over the "billions" in real estate is shilling for the various levels of government and industry who have very deliberately allowed the situation down here to deteriorate to third-world levels, in the heart of "the world's most livable city", in order to justify the very "cleansing" you advocate.

The downtown eastside of Vancouver isn't a tumor, it's a neighborhood for fuck's sake. Certainly one of the most diverse in Canada, if not the world. Take a walk from Gastown, which is a fully-gentrified tourist strip with busloads of gawkers, down Cordova st with it's funky boutiques and cafes, through the soggy masses of homeless crackheads on Hastings St, through the chinatown gate and public garden to the busy markets, and into the sleepy old houses of Strathcona - and you've only gone a quarter of a freaking mile. It's a social vortex like nothing else I've encountered in my modest travels.

Consider along with this the historical forces that built the neighborhood, the city, and the province - the intensive and seasonal recource extraction industries which occupied most of it's residents for most of the 20th century, which required armies of semi-skilled labour to migrate to camps up and down the coast from spring to fall. In the winter, most of these guys would take their earnings down to the city, where they stayed in the many SRO hotels that still line the East Hastings from Carrell to Princess - this combined with the close proximity of the dockside created a boozy, brawling culture of rootless misfits. Add to this the fact that the DTES also has the biggest concentration of off-res natives in the province, making it an actual "destination" for young bloods seeking a taste of the wild life, or just to meet up with friends and relations.

A tattered fabric of social service agencies, despite relentless cuts to funding from all levels (while surpluses and megaprojects abound,) continues to provide the itinerant population with food and basic medical services, shelters, etc. (As if to rub it in, one of these organizations is called Triage.) So there's no starvation or cholera outbreaks so far at least.

Distributed throughout all this is an archipelago of studios, storefronts, and practice spaces which also makes the neighborhood the historic and actual center of Vancouver's creative community - nearly every successful artist to come out of Vancouver has had, or still has, a studio in the DTES - Jeff Wall, Richard Lukacs, Rodney Graham etc, and Stan Douglas' signature work "Every Building on 100 West Hastings" is an intimate portrait of the street itself (if not the street life - why no people Stan?) And the many clubs and recording studios (from the New Pornographers to Bryan freaking Adams) make it the center of the music scene as well.

And then there's the drugs. Can anyone tell me why there is a hard-drug supermarket pretty much completely surrounding the HQ of the Vancouver Police Department at Hastings and Main? (Is it related at all to the fact that since the CAN/US/UK military took charge in Afghanistan that country now supplies 87% of the world's heroin, up from ~0% under the Taliban? Doesn't that seem a little strange?) In any case, the elephant in the room here is that commerce in these drugs is the dominant economic activity of the area - crack cocaine and heroin are much easier to obtain than a bottle of decent wine, or a loaf of decent bread for that matter, but most of the dope running through these streets is consumed in other neighborhoods, other towns. And most of the homeless are driven into participating at some level, as mules and go-betweens, because there isn't really anything else for them to participate in.

I'm not pretending to have any "solutions" to the "problems" of the DTES, just saying that the situation is a lot deeper and more complicated than a superficial "tumor" analogy, and that the bulldozer approach isn't going to do anything but spread the problem around. A few years ago they "cracked down" on the homeless in the DTES - within a few days residents of the West End suddenly noticed a massive outbreak of homelessness. So the city backed off, reverting to the policy of containment. Over and again I hear "line em all up against the wall and shoot em" comments - which is in my opinion reverting to level of barbarism and inhumanity far below that of the mere addict.
posted by dinsdale at 4:48 PM on October 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


Anyone salivating over the "billions" in real estate is shilling for the various levels of government and industry who have very deliberately allowed the situation down here to deteriorate to third-world levels, in the heart of "the world's most livable city", in order to justify the very "cleansing" you advocate.

Well, if you're referring to me you're wrong: I'm not shilling for anybody. I don't stand to make any money on the improvement of the neighbourhood. I am a realist, though, and see clearly that whatever maladies plague the residents of the neighbourhood its overhaul is inevitable. And this will be a very good thing in my opinion.

Are you serious that you see a conspiracy on the part of various levels of government to allow the downtown eastside to deteriorate so they can come in and carry out a clearance? If so, why haven't they done so already? Can it get any worse?

No, the only thing perpetuating this pustulent furuncle is activism on the part of DERA and the like, and an apologetic cleavage to political correctness on the part of the local government and citzenry. Any other city in the world would tolerate this area only as until property values went up and the economic factors would inevitably move the worst aspects of the street life here somewhere else.

No, this doesn't solve the problem. But allowing this situation to continue, cheek by jowl to one of the most amazingly livable downtown areas in North America isn't solving any problems either. And please stop calling this a "neighbourhood." It's not a neighbourhood anyone would choose to live in; it's a war zone whose main attraction is ready access to drugs.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:12 PM on October 18, 2007


turtles: It's not a neighbourhood you would choose to live in. I probably wouldn't either. But I have met others who do choose to live there. Also as a musician, I played in a band that had a practice space in the area, and I've played and attended concerts in the area as well. You don't get to declare something a non-neighborhood just because it doesn't appeal to you.

Here it is, what bothers me most. "the worst aspects of the street life" - you mean the very poor, the mentally ill drug-addicted human beings who live there - and you want them to "move...somewhere else". Well, wonderful. Is that our only other option to passively allowing it to continue? I would rather ask the people like dinsdale and milkman dan what to do since they clearly understand the nuances of the situation. You hardly make a convincing case.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:56 PM on October 18, 2007


The next time some homeless guy comes up to me and gets in my face aggressively demanding money, I'm gonna take a pipe to him. The last time that happened I warned the guy to back off and he did, but not without calling me every name under the sun. Entitlement occasionally runs rampant at Main and Hastings.

Not all the homeless are like that, mind. Some are genuinely ill and need care. But the aggressive ones muddy the system and make it hard for society to care about the ones who need help the most.
posted by illiad at 6:25 PM on October 18, 2007


Christ, I'm about to move to Vancouver, and the opinions in this thread are far more disconcerting to me than the fact that there's an area with lots of drugs and homeless people.
posted by blacklite at 6:47 PM on October 18, 2007


Worry not, blacklite. In my experience most people here in Vancouver realize that the problem (it's not an "issue") is heavily nuanced, and that simplistic "line em up and kill em all" or "they're all misunderstood victims" opinions belong to either the deluded or the ignorant.

It doesn't mean you won't run into them, but you're dealing with the ends of the bell curve.
posted by illiad at 6:56 PM on October 18, 2007


blacklite, which opinions?
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:58 PM on October 18, 2007


blacklite, which opinions?

I agree...the opinions here are pretty nuanced, with a few outliers. And don't worry, blacklite, there are plenty of people that share your view of the world. Look up DERA.

This is indeed a problem that must be solved, both for the people suffering with mental illness or drug addiction, or, often both, and for the rest of us that have to live around them.

I don't live in Van, I live in Victoria, where more and more of Canada's homeless are showing up. Every time I take my son to Beacon Hill Park I have to watch for discarded needles. If I want to take him for hot chocolate at Bean Around the World in Chinatown, I have to plan our route carefully...to avoid places where people shit and piss on the street.

It's a quality of life issue. Downtown Victoria, where I live, is fucking nasty. We are an affluent society, and we should be able to work a little proactively at solving this problem. They're building a fucking subway under Cambie, twinning the Port Mann Bridge, erecting a floating conference center...surely our society can start doing more to cure homelessness.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:32 PM on October 18, 2007


blue_beetle writes "I guess they should have all moved to Calgary and got jobs"

Lots of homeless in Calgary and some of the people there would rather have the homeless freeze to death in sub 30 weather than have a shelter within 10 blocks of their house.

tkchrist writes "I've been going up there three of our times a year for maybe the last twenty years and every trip it really has been getting worse and worse. What the hell is up?"

Real estate. Prices are completely insane in Vancouver.
posted by Mitheral at 1:49 AM on October 19, 2007


With respect, Mitheral, I don't think Vancouver's real estate prices have much if anything to do with the number of homeless on the street. If you're at the point where you're living in a shelter then whether a home costs $50,000 dollars or $5 million dollars is of little difference to you.

I'd point to two factors: First, the hugest one: the closing of residential care facilities for the chronically mentally ill (sponsored by wooly-headed do-gooder thinking that institutionalizing these people was an infringement of their human rights). Second: as a previous commenter has pointed out--we get people drifting in from all parts east.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:01 AM on October 19, 2007


blacklite, which opinions?

I just like to keep you all guessing.

No, okay. Um. The cesspool/tumor/not-a-neighbourhood/burn-it/omg/call-the-UN opinions.

Though I think they struck me enough that I mentally inflated the number of people holding said opinions.
posted by blacklite at 3:01 AM on October 19, 2007


Well I personally was a lot closer to being homeless in the last year than I like to think about. And it's at least 50% the cost of housing that I was in that situation. But maybe I'm projecting.
posted by Mitheral at 4:10 AM on October 19, 2007


Turtles, do you seriously think real estate prices have nothing to do with homelessness? I find that difficult to comprehend.

Higher prices encourage the owners of single room occupancy hotels to sell out and close down. Every time one disappears (it happens every month or so) a few dozen more end up on the street. And increasing real estate prices means rental rates are going up; the difference between $400 a month and $600 a month might be enough to send more people to the streets. According to a UN report if you spend more than 30% of your gross income on housing you are in "core need" and at risk of becoming homeless; more than 50% and you are at "high risk". Do you know anyone in these situations?

Put simply, if it was possible to get off the street for $200 a month don't you think we would see a reduction in homelessness?
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:44 AM on October 19, 2007


turtles all the way down, the government didn't close residential care facilities down they've been reducing the beds at Riverview. The problem was the government didn't adjust community services to compensate for the bed closures. Whereas, when Tranquille* (a provincial facility for the mentally handicapped) shut its doors permanently in the mid 80's the province made sure to step up and provided community services for them to compensate.

Instead, you should be asking yourself why did Closer To Home fail miserably? And, why was one of the solutions to the problem a new section in the Mental Health Act which puts treatment resistant folk on probation ... how long has it been in place and do you really see a difference in the number of sick on the streets since it's implementation?

*Woodlands and Glenndale also closed their doors but Tranquille was the last.
posted by squeak at 11:19 AM on October 19, 2007


Real estate. Prices are completely insane in Vancouver.

Real estate prices here in Seattle are almost as insane and we haven't seen the same increase in Homelessness. Or. If we have it sure isn't as visible.

It is greatly disturbing that so many people have this "Aw fuck 'em - they can get a job" attitude to the problem of homelessness.

I think most people feel this way as a defensive mechanism to their own fears of vulnerability. The fact is over half of the "middle class" is only two or three paychecks away (or one serious heath problem) from serious financial crisis.

I' ve see it happen. I've seen college educated people with $45,000 a year jobs go from property class, to apartments, to subsidized housing, to living in a van with in two or three years. It can happen. All too easily.
posted by tkchrist at 12:32 PM on October 19, 2007


A $45,000 a year job does not qualify you for the property class in Vancouver. A BC family needs a *at least* a combined income of about $100,000 a year these days in order to own and maintain a house.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:37 PM on October 19, 2007


And please stop calling this a "neighbourhood." It's not a neighbourhood anyone would choose to live in; it's a war zone whose main attraction is ready access to drugs.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:12 PM on October 18


I'm dropping back in pretty late to this thread but I couldn't let this one slide. How am I to respond to this, other than to wonder how it is that someone who as apparently learned to write never actually learned how to read? I guess when all you have is a laundry list of trolling points, there isn't much point in actually listening to the conversation...

It's a neighborhood because my neighbors and I live here! We were here before the crack invasion, and we'll be here afterward. There are lot's of successful housing co-ops in the neighborhood with roof gardens, courtyards, and, yes, families. Unfortunately, we stopped building any social housing in this neighborhood a long time ago. But we can find a billion dollars to widen the highway to Whistler for a 2-week sporting event.
posted by dinsdale at 2:45 AM on October 20, 2007


tkchrist writes "Real estate prices here in Seattle are almost as insane and we haven't seen the same increase in Homelessness. Or. If we have it sure isn't as visible."

Well Vancouver is arguably one of the best places to be homeless in Canada. Winter time lows are warmer than most other places. If I was American and homeless Seattle is not where I'd choose what with California a quick hitch hike/bus ride down the coast.
posted by Mitheral at 9:05 PM on October 21, 2007


« Older Looking to buy a house in Toronto?...  |  The secret life of refrigerato... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments