Frances Bula header image 2

An early report on Vancouver homeless efforts

December 18th, 2008 · 6 Comments

From: Graves, Judy
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 11:44 AM
To: [Removed]

It looks like you have had unprecedented success with the expanded
shelter openings.

It has been well over a decade since there have been so few people
sleeping rough in the DTES overnight during Extreme Weather.
The whole area was quiet, very few people on the street. We walked from
Blood Alley to Hastings and Gore, along Cordova and Hastings, looking
into the alleys, and talking to everyone we met who were remaining on
the streets.

There was no one sleeping under the overhang at the back of the Stanley.
No one sleeping in the doorways in Gastown. No one in Pigeon Park.
No one sleeping outside the probations/Community Courts. No one sleeping
in the doorway of the old Coroner’s Court. No one sleeping on the steps
of Saint James Church. No one sleeping on the steps of First United. No
one sleeping in the doorways along Hastings/Water st or Cordova.

We found a couple sleeping in a doorway near Hastings and Carrall and a
man still pushing his cart on Cordova. They each explained they had been
born in Northern Quebec and Saskatchewan and were not bothered by cold.
We found two Aboriginal men standing on Hastings – but they were
enthusiastic when we told them Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship was open
for them. We found one older woman who had been evicted from Attira on
Cordova Street. We told her First United was open – and she immediately
left us to go there for shelter.

The communications piece appears to be working very well. We found the
more functional people in the street reminding less functional people
that First United was open. This is the perfect penetration of a
communications strategy.

A little after mid-night we spoke with Philip, the volunteer book
keeper, who had just left St. James Church.
He told us this was the first night in many years that people were not
sleeping on the church steps. In fact he said he had been working until
late at the Church Saturday night, and when he came out there were four
people sleeping on the steps covered with a half inch of snow.

Last night 161 people slept overnight at First United Church.

After I posted this, Janice Abbott from Atira wrote in with this note:

Hey Frances.

Read your blog last night and was a little concerned you noted an elderly women who said she’d been evicted from Atira. Checked into it this morning and we assume it’s M., who was definitely not evicted. She lived at Bridge and was hospitalized a number of months ago where it was determined she needed extended care so when she left hospital she was placed at Langara Lodge. We have since learned she checked herself out.  If it is someone other than M. please let me know as we rarely evict anyone and we are all under specific instructions not to evict anyone during this weather, not even from the Shelter.


Categories: Uncategorized

  • I just might cry. As someone who has a gorgeous little condo in the area, and who has seen too, too many people huddled under tarps and soggy blankets in grim weather, I’ll sleep better myself tonight having read this.

  • John Berringer

    Let me know the next night you are going out, I’d like to be of help.

    This is a very encouraging post.It has been to long in this city that we let people….PEOPLE….sleep on the streets.

    Contact me at:



  • Patrick

    all politics aside, applause for the new city team and staff for making these quick and drastic improvements… anyone getting the thumbs-up from Judy Graves is doing something very right.

  • Jeannette M

    Hopefully the emergency shelters allowing shopping carts etc. will get opened sooner rather than later. The events of very early this morning are a very sad reminder of the consequences of this going ignored.

  • Hi Frances and Judy,

    Thanks for this. I have to say that there are MANY homeless people outside the traditional areas. I saw many on Broadway near Main St. and many near Broadway and Baywater in Kitsilano. If I weren’t in Calgary I would help, but I am away. I’ll get on it when I get back close to dec 30th.

  • tommi

    I still see quite a few homeless people wandering around the DTES late at night in the snow.