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Vancouver to try new homelessness approach near Granville

August 26th, 2009 · 4 Comments

One thing you have to say about B.C. and Vancouver these days is that there’s been a definite blooming of new efforts being made to help people who are homeless and have multiple other problems. From the sobering centre in Surrey to emergency no-barrier shelters here in Vancouver to the provincial government’s various new projects (reno’d Downtown Eastside rooms; new social housing with small rooms; new social housing with group kitchens), cities are breaking out of old patterns in providing housing and treatment.

A new one is in the planning here in Vancouver, part of a Mental Health Commission of Canada effort to find new approaches. My story in the Globe on it is here and you can read the commission’s plans here.

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  • LP

    A quote from Jang: “I think what’s changed with the homeless is how you communicate about them with the general public. It’s not even about public consultation……”

    Why doesn’t it surprise me that Vision doesn’t want to consult the public.

    The mayor and his band of merry councillors have taken a page out of Gordon Campbell’s book of doing what they want without consulting the public.

    Campbell liked the gas tax, Gregor put him on a pedestal. Campbell likes to ram through change claiming election victory as his right, Vision likes to flaunt the majority they won as a reason to do what they please.

    Time to wake up people there isn’t a whole lot of difference between our mayor and our premier.

  • Marcella

    Thanks for this. These are very important trials, and in my mind crucial to figuring out how we solve the mental health-addiction-homelessness triangle of issues at the root of the social challenges facing Vancouver.

    I’ve been on the Board of the Dr Peter AIDS Foundation for 2+ years now. Dr Peter — which is located in the heart of the West End — has really been at the forefront of grappling with these issues, with the added pressure that all of our participants are also HIV+.

    You can find out more about Dr Peter at

    The model that works at Dr Peter — where people afflicted with these difficulties have access to day-to-day counselling and nursing care — have been a success. The more ways we can provide the various supports needed, in a non-judgemental environment, the more I believe we will be able to help people move forward with their lives in a more positive way.

    I hope as well that as part of their trial they will provide HIV/AIDS testing to people who use these services. Surveys have shown that some 1/3 of people with HIV/AIDS in Vancouver don’t get access to anti-retriviral meds, mostly because they are never tested. Getting access to these medications is critical for stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, thus lessening the burden on both the people that are the hardest to house, and on the health care system.

  • Larry McLaren

    As compared to Surrey spreading chicken shit…

  • CWYL

    That’s pretty funny (not funny funny but sad funny) Larry, though I don’t quite get the analogy.

    As per the story and plans, at one point it is stated by Dr. Jang that (of the emergency housing under the Granville bridge) it “brought crime and unacceptable behaviour to their neighbourhood” and “then became the subject of complaints from dozens of residents”. After this the doctor states “I think what’s changed with the homeless is how you communicate about them with the general public. It’s not even about public consultation, but you have to be providing information on almost a daily basis”.

    How this doctor can say that it is not about public consultation (and then further state that the city might even consider running a blog or Twitter account for updates) seems a little crazy. Of course the public must be consulted about these things and be allowed to provide input (why else would a blog be considered an apt vehicle) so that potential problems that crop up in the neighbourhood (as it is) are publicized and addressed accordingly. Also if the public is consulted they will have less to bitch about later if (and likely when) things do go awry but our City and Provincial governments don’t seem to realize this with their “we’re in power now and this is how it is” attitude.

    Also, why do we require a housing program that “tests what type of treatment works” when a like project (Pathways to Housing) “providing meaningful and practical support” is in place in US cities touting positive results. Do our economies and potential treatment methods differ that much that a “trial basis” is necessary?

    Right now I am just questioning whether this is a good idea, but I personally have more than just a little nagging feeling in the back of my mind wonder if this isn’t just another ploy by the government to quell the masses for a few years (at a few hundred million over budget) until the next best thing comes along.

    Having worked with many of these people as a volunteer (12 yrs) and SRA security (8 yrs) I’m not sure that an “aggressive health treatment” along with housing is going to be enough for this cities “hardest to house”.

    We need a program that is malleable and able to morph as required to suit the current climate, something long term that is not just the latest greatest idea from those currently in power. Such an initiative would require not just a place to live and professional help for these people on a temporary basis but something with a safety net so that these folks don’t end up dying from overdoses after this little “rehab” experiment is over with. Without additional aid through either other programs or the expansion of this one, along with the organization and consolidation of our not-for-profit sector, I believe that this is ultimately a flawed initiative.

    All of the poor, regardless of drug abuse or mental status, have to have something to live for, as stated prior to me by Marcella, “in a non-judgmental environment”, and until this berg gets all of it’s ducks in a row, I see little hope for any such initiative being as successful as it has to be.

    I also hope that these facilities will be staved with more than 12 medical specialists, as 24 hour attendants would be mandatory.

    As for whether the property owners are interested in the economic benefits due to taxes and/or feel that they are contributing to improving the community, who cares. Whether it’s them or the media making the Bosman’s owners et al sound like harp strumming angels, only people who donate monies beyond their tax bracket requirements anonymously deserves our respect as self-gratification is likely far less their motive.