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BC Housing, Insite, Carnegie brace for media hordes in Downtown Eastside

December 2nd, 2009 · 6 Comments

Oh, it’s not just VANOC ramping up the public-relations machine. Groups in the Downtown Eastside, knowing that all those international reporters are going to come looking for something to do in their spare time, are getting ready for the “here’s the dark heart of the glittering city” stories.

Here’s my story on same in the today’s Globe.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Otis Krayola

    Well, for me right now, the dark heart is this damned Buy 100 mg of ‘a popular drug for erectile dysfunction’ page that loads instead of your home page, or contact page.

    One can get in from Google from the FBula ‘archive’ link, but even the main page link is V1@gr@. This is twice in one week.

    Must be even more frustrating for you, Frances.

  • Otis Krayola

    I’m thinking of growing it out on the sides for a combover. But then I’d have to study up on my best Coleman impression to admit “Well yes, there’s no hiding that I have a bit of baldness”.

    Yeah, that’ll work!

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    “We think there’s a good story to tell about what we’ve done in B.C. for homelessness, mental health, drug addiction,” Housing Minister Rich Coleman said.

    Damn, I spit tea all over my keyboard after reading that. How much is it going to cost to set this office up? Cut, cut, cut! The cupboards are bare for the Arts, yet the PAB machine keeps on finding highly creative ways to spend taxpayers money. Oh well. Or, should I say: Orwell?

  • For 18 months, I worked as a volunteer with an organization that included Michael Clague, Milton Wong, Mike Harcourt, Larry Beasley, Ray Spaxman, Gerry Zipursky and others. Its goal was to improve living conditions and the overall quality of the downtown eastside. After 18 months, I quit, out of frustration. However I am still invited to participate in many community forums.

    Last week, Judy Graves invited me to join a three day event looking at homelessness and other related issues. When I looked over the list of invitees, I thought I could see a problem, and so I wrote to Judy, and everyone else on the list. The following is my response in which I try to address some of the key challenges:

    Judy, thank you for including me on the very impressive list of invitees to what could be a very significant and pivotal event. I like the tone of the invitation…to focus on what can be done-not what has or has not been done in the past.

    Unfortunately a prior commitment will prevent me from joining you on Thursday when you plan to discuss how to finance safe and appropriate housing for people who have been homeless. However, in reviewing the list of invitees, and having spent 35 years with CMHC and the private sector building housing in the Downtown Eastside and elsewhere in the city, I would like to offer a few observations for your and others participating in this event.

    Let me add that my views are also influenced by the 18 months I spent trying to help create new housing in the community as a Director of the Building Community Society and a consultant to BC Housing on a proposal to build 60 relocatable homes on the City owned Drake Hotel site.

    1. I am convinced that the key to financing and building new housing for the homeless is to identify new sources of funding through NEW PARTNERSHIPS; not just between the four levels of government and social service agencies, but also with the banking and business communities and the real estate community. From my review of the program, these important sectors are not represented on the panels, nor included in the list of invitees.

    2. There is also a need for greater COLLABORATION between organizations committed to trying to help the homeless. In reviewing the list, I cannot see any representation from Street to Home or Building Community Society, two agencies that I know are actively involved with proposals to build housing in the community. (If they are there, and I missed their names I apologize.)

    3. From reviewing successful efforts in other places, I am also now convinced that there is a need for better COORDINATION of community efforts. While some of the community representatives on your list hate to hear me say this, there is often too much duplication of effort because there really is no one in charge of addressing the challenge of housing the homeless. While the City and Province and organizations like the Portland Hotel Society are doing very good things, none is, nor should be in charge.

    With this in mind, my advice would be to consider the creation of something like a Community Housing/Development Trust that would include representation from all levels of government, key community organizations, as well as other people with money and resources to help oversee the creation of new housing and other infrastructure improvements and services delivery. This might include organizations like the Real Estate Foundation (who do not appear invited to the event), representatives of the philanthropy community, some of whom could write a cheque for $5 million if they were confident the money would be well spent and lead to significant improvements in the lives of people in the area. The trust would benefit from the participation of others with community housing and development expertise.

    In summary, I would be concerned that this event, like so many I have been invited to attend, could end up preaching to the converted unless there is a broader base of inclusiveness. Too many similar sessions have ended up with a resolution to ask the federal government for $50 million or $1 billion to help address the situation, and with few exceptions (the recently announced program addressing the individual needs of those with mental illness is an exception), the money doesn’t come.

    We need a ‘made-in-Vancouver solution’ to pull together all the community desires and aspirations. While I compliment the Portland Hotel Society and BC Housing and the City of Vancouver and yes, the Carnegie Community Action Project on what they have done in the past, none can nor should take the lead on this. It should be a more community based, effective organization, and to my mind, this is something that is currently missing. If a new community development coordinating entity could be put in place, I am confident that a lot more money might become available, a lot more would happen, and a lot more lives will be improved.

    I hope this is helpful.

  • grumbelschmoll

    Will the world’s excellent sport reporters have the patience to wade through the morast of a provincial misinformation campaign on housing? What’s more important to them, the story of how the empty promise of 14 housing projects masquerades as achievement, or the $458 million for the retractable roof on BC Place?

    Chances are, stories of the Downtown Eastside will be used as colour commentary, to give breathless sports coverage a thin veneer of critical journalism.

  • John

    grumbelschmoll, you are correct. The international media will create a few little stories of Vancouver’s sad reality, they’ll be published and a few people here and there – somewhere among all of the sporting events – will mumble and grumble and debate and spew and ramble rhetoric over them.

    The government will set up its defensive line and hold it tight. They’re probably making all kinds of headway in the area now. Don’t worry. They’ve got us all covered. Vancouver will be shown for what it is, the most beautiful city in the world, the most green, the most clean, the most, the most, the most, blah, blah, blah…

    It shouldn’t cost the taxpayer much, maybe a few million is all. We all knew they would spend money to cover over a few weak spots… right? I mean, you did realize that they’d have that in the budget? Okay, just doing a sanity check…

    On March 1st, it’ll all be over. The Olympics only last a couple of weeks. Once the gargantuan international media spotlights have come and gone, and Vancouver begins to clean up the mess left behind, the downtown east-side will be dark once again, and it can go back to what it is: a pitiful, decaying scab on the butt of this city. It is irrelevant how those stories will be used.

    The only thing that truly matters for Vancouver and this province is that, here, right now, and in the near and distant future, the downtown east-side, and all that goes with it, is our collective reality. Stories? So what? It’s real for us. We live it. We own it.

    The stories are irrelevant. The world ain’t gonna fix Vancouver’s problems.