Thanks to Mayor Robertson's new HEAT shelter, the corner of Beach and Howe has become the place to par-tay!
CKNW radio is reporting that over 300 angry residents packed a meeting hall in downtown Vancouver this evening to voice their displeasure over Mayor Gregor Robertson's decision to unilaterally open a HEAT no barrier homeless shelter in their neighbourhood without any consultation.
As we reported here earlier, the meeting was organized by a group calling themselves the Concerned Citizens of False Creek North (CCFCN). They have a number of gripes with Mayor Robertson and his Vision crew and the manner in which they opened a homeless shelter in their neighbourhood without any citizen dialogue. They have begun a petition which is now being widely circulated.
We have been forwarded a number of photographs like the one above from local residents who are at their wit's end with what they say has been increased panhandling, drug dealing and public urination since Robertson's shelter was imposed on their neighbourhood.
Despite pleas from local residents, Mayor Robertson issued a news release in advance of this evening's citizen meeting and stated:
We need to keep the HEAT shelters open year-round, and get interim housing in place so that we can bridge the gap until new permanent housing is completed.
If you recall, the HEAT shelters were originally slated as "temporary" measures over the winter period. However few people believed that once the homeless were placed in these HEAT shelters they would be tossed back on the street before Mayor Robertson waves the flag at the Olympic Games.
The Vancouver Police defended the Mayor by stating there has been no significant increase in illegal activity near the shelter since it opened up late last year. This is something that is being refuted by local residents who say most people aren't calling 911 to report these illegal acts and thus they aren't showing up on the police stat sheets.
One resident was quoted as saying a homeless person living in the shelter asked him for cash, and when he didn't turn it over, he was verbally threatened. The resident then went into his vehicle and got a golf club out and told the street person the odds were now even. This whole scenario is turning ugly rather quickly.
Robertson's solution is to ask the shelter to sign a "good neighbour agreement," something that local residents are openly mocking. As one local resident advised us, "How can you have a good neighbour agreement with someone who's overdosing on crack and just threatened to steal your wallet?"
The root of this growing problem was Robertson's eagerness to score a few political points by opening the shelters quickly and without any neighbourhood consultation. This lack of dialogue has helped to fuel citizen anger.
Late today, the Mayor's PR flacks fired off yet another news release proclaiming why the HEAT shelters are so desperately needed. They quote statistics provided by the shelter operators that indicate they are turning away more people than they can serve.
The Mayor's spinmeisters just don't get it. People clearly understand there is a need for shelters in Vancouver, they just aren't prepared to have their neighbourhoods turned into war zones in order to solve Canada's homelessness problem.
Unfortunately for Robertson he's assigned Councillor Kerry Jang, one of his weakest councillors, to this file. This will only serve to turn what Robertson once thought was a political gold mine into a scorching hot potato.
Only time will tell if the Mayor will stick to his guns, or if local residents will eventually have their concerns addressed by this council. Have your say by answering our online poll on this topic.