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Vision homelessness efforts need to be solid

December 12th, 2008 · 10 Comments

My last CTV blog post looked at the debate over whether homelessness is worth trying to tackle (some people feel like it’s too big a job for the city) and also a warning about scrambling together homeless shelters too quickly.

As people in the Downtown Eastside know too well, those who have been sleeping on the streets are often the most troubled. So there’s often a lot more to housing them, even in shelters, than just opening the doors. Those who live in the Gastown area will remember the difficulties caused after the COPE council, in another quick move to house the homeless shortly after being elected in 2002, put 200 people who had been squatting around Woodward’s into the Stanley New Fountain and left it to the Portland Hotel Society to run.

With few resources and an extremely challenging group to deal with, the Stanley turned into a nightmare for all concerned. There were police calls, neighbourhood disruptions, and burned-out staff trying to do too much with too little.

The situation finally eased after a couple of years when the Portland got more staffing and resources for the building. The Portland, which manages several hotels in the area, was also able to cope with the situation better than some because it could deploy staff over to the Stanley from other buildings, if there was a real emergency, and its staff had also had years of experience in dealing with some of the Downtown Eastside’s most difficult residents.

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