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Which is the best way to solve homelessness?

March 5th, 2009 · 10 Comments

This illuminating email exchange went is making the rounds today in the city, with two very different approaches to finding solutions to homelessness.

Hello Michael,

Would you publically, along with HEAT, Streets to Home, BCS, Gregory
Henriquez and Housing Providers, have a press conference and say to the
province and feds that we need them to fund 800 units of social housing per
year for 10 years in the City of Vancouver to stay on target with Homeless
Action Plan which is the real solution?

Carnegie Community Action Project

CC to Media desks and Reporters

—–Original Message—–
From: []
Sent: March 4, 2009 7:39 AM
Subject: modular housing for the homeless

Wendy, as you may be aware, I have received some funding from the province
to examine the feasibility of a ‘Demonstration Project’ using modular homes
for the homeless.  I would like to set up an informal meeting with you to
show you what I have come up with and get your thoughts on the concept and
design details.

I recall that the last time I made this overture, you suggested that the
units were not necessary since since people could go into Little Mountain
and/or the empty hotel rooms.  As you may know, Little Mountain is not a
possibility.  I understand many of the hotels will be opened up, but with
little renovation.  Even still, there are not enough spaces to accommodate
everyone looking for a home.

It has been suggested to me that you may not support this approach since it
could deter the government from building new permanent homes.  I appreciate
this concern. You shared something along these lines on January 24th 2008 at
the DECLUP workshop when we first met.  However, I hope you would agree that
it is better to help people get into clean, safe homes now, rather than
continue to leave them on the streets for the two to three years it will
take to build permanent facilities.

Let’s talk!  Please call me or email me with some possible times.  Thanks.

Michael A. Geller B.Arch,MAIBC,FCIP
Michael Geller & Associates Limited
Adjunct Faculty, Centre for Sustainable Community Development,


Categories: Uncategorized

  • not running for mayor

    I’m a big fan of Gregory Henriquez and like his Stop-Gap proposal. Not sure if the right people will jump on that bandwagon or not. But Kudos for at least trying.
    I think Wendy is asking for too much though, 800/units a year for 10years? And that’s just in Vancouver??? How many does she envision across the region?

  • Tessa

    Cute how the subject of the original e-mail was completely dropped in favour of Wendy’s own proposal. My favourite part was the “which is the real solution”, she tacked on the end there.

    Apparently she doesn’t agree with the need to give people a clean, safe home now rather than continue to leave them on the streets for the two to three years it will take to build new housing (or in many cases, the many more years waiting for housing because it isn’t getting built in enough numbers)

    I don’t understand why anyone would turn someone away without so much as a cursory look or a thank you when that person is offering what could potentially drastically improve the lives of people who are homeless.

  • T W

    There are several possible interim solutions.

    Which is why I would support Michael Geller’s suggestion. There is no place for rigid ideology in this area – and that applies for the right, the centre and the left of the political spectrum. What is the real public interest ?

  • hohoho

    “Publically” ?

    Yes, how illuminating.

    The poverty pimps like Wendy are still in charge of the hen-house, resisting everything but the status-quo. There is no interest in solutions like Michael Geller’s because that would mean losing some control of money and power over people less fortunate. Yet she wants Michael and others to become a shill for her poverty programs that have done nothing to improve things in the DTES.

    It’s time for Wendy to step aside and let others with better ideas and connections do what’s needed in the DTES. Project Phoenix has made it clear that there is a LOT of money being poured into programs that do little to change things or improve the lives of those living in poverty. It’s got to change, and Wendy, as usual, is opposed to any change that could actually make a difference.

    Wendy is part of the problem, Michael Geller is part of the solution. That’s why they don’t see eye to eye.

  • Michael Phillips

    I really hope that anyone who describes any reputable DTES activist/community leader as a poverty pimp, whore etc. knows what the hell they are talking about.

    Now, maybe people have reached this conclusion after a lot of research and personal experience, in which case I would be very interested in the facts you have uncovered, facts which could save lives and which you should really come out with in detail. But lately I’ve been reading a bunch of venomous insults thrown against people who, no matter what you think of them, spend their days advocating for those most in need. I’ve heard more socially destructive ideas than that of building 800 units of social housing a year.

    I’m positive that some people take advantage of those in desperate straits on the DTES while looking as though they are helping the situation. I spoke with one former crack addict who described that methadone worked for him because he had one of the “good doctors” who decreased his dose every month, while his friend was worse than ever because he had one of the “bad doctors” who increase your dose every month.

    But lets share facts and stories rather than spiteful insults about this life or death issue shall we?

  • asp

    Geller mentioned in the paper yesterday that these boxes can be built for 38-45K. That would be an ideal price for all the up-and-coming coach houses people want to build around town.

    Another place they can be placed is on the roofs of all the single storey retail buildings around town, along with a bit of roof top gardening.

    Between those two, theres likely room for a couple hundred thousand of these units in Vancouver alone.

    I would just hope that the boxes are built with lots of low-e windows and summer shading.

  • SV

    Michael Phillips-thank you for your comment. I’m often amazed at the vitriol spewed in comment sections-it’s easy to lash out and attack those one doesn’t agree with, I’ve done it myself. But this isn’t a contest, it’s a discussion, and we’d all do well to remember this.

  • glissando remmy

    Throughout my daily run of errands I see homelessness and panhandling stamped all over this city. People in suits are walking on Robson street (and for that matter on any street) unmoved by people begging.
    However, they are ready to jump like bitten by a Tsetse fly for a bar of ice cream when a vendor offers them for free out of a promotional bin. I have the ability to cut through the red tape bullshit (or I may proudly be first to say it in the city of Vancouver …“chikenshit”) rather nicely.
    The reason for this Email exchange being posted on your blog Frances is beyond my understanding.
    The “dialogue” is entirely unbalanced. One represents the Spanish Armada the other the barefoot Native Indians (no disrespect here). One has the support of the senior pen pushers of this city the other is a foot brigadier in a bubonic plagued zone offering first aid and mouth to mouth.
    Read through the lines of this email exchange and you’ll see a simple desperate plea for help, from someone who knows up close and personal on the reality of living in the DTES versus the polished manicured measured response of someone whose knowledge of the problem comes from the pages of the Vancouver dailies, read during the morning coffee.
    One asks in plain English language for the money, which I have no doubt are needed. The other on the other hand pretends to listen and understand while making promises to look into the matter, while already getting some “studying” money so he could keep looking for the money so then they can observe some more on the repercussion of having these money conveyed to the people that needs the money, ultimately and compassionately trying to find out if they can handle the money, hoping secretly that there might not be a need for the money to be spent on them. Are you following?
    I don’t know, the number 800 might look high to some but Mr. Geller is in no capacity to offer advice based on his walks around the area and around the world, as a tourist I may add.
    Wendy dear, you asked the wrong people for help. Really! Asking a former NPA stellar candidate for help on homelessness is same as residents of Vancouver Kingsway asking former political grasshopper David Emerson for help with the presentation of a Morals and Ethics seminar.
    Don’t be fooled by the suits. If you would know the amount of effort and time these people are dedicating in trying to convince you that they are working for you, sweating in a smelter would seem easy breezy. When are people going to cut through the science fiction literature these people are putting out?
    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

    First, I second Michael Phillips comments. Secondly did you know that “ho” stands for “whore” in American slang?
    The irony, eh?!

  • Rolf Auer

    Hi Frances, how about a report on Miloon Kothari’s condemnation of Canada for not having a national social housing program?

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    I worry that “modular homes” will end up being our version of the New Orleans “FEMA trailers”.

    If CCAP puts the need at 800 units for 10 years, we should be rolling up our sleeves to build 8000 units now. When we talk about Vancouver’s problem at national events, the suggestion is always, “the way to end homelessness is to build housing”.

    We are a wealthy nation, after all. Properly structured, housing can be part of investing in civic infrastructure. Investment in infrastructure functions as economic stimulus not pork.

    What is missing in the so-called downtown eastside is a plan to bring the entire neighborhood back to function like any other part of the city. We’ll need to build parks and outdoor space; transportation and traffic calming.

    I will be presenting an analysis of what such a plan would look like at Canadian Institute of Planning’s annual conference this year. Next year, I will try to bring the presentation to Land Summit.

    There are fundamentals in urban functioning that we have missed in Vancouver. Building 8000 units, if you look at the larger picture, is doable.

    There may well be the need for temporary band-aids. I think what people are sick of is the lack of a comprehensive plan, backed by real action and fully funded.

    Absent that, the seemingly endless drip of band aids starts to look suspicious.