Getting HEATed

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

5 comments

party-time!
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.

5 Comments

Seems this Mayor is nothing more than Campbell-light

I'm looking at this picture and can't help but wonder who these people are. Are they really long time Vancouver residents who have fallen on hard times? Are they mentally ill people who really have no other support systems to help them through a difficult period? Or are they a group of young people who have decided this is a good way to spend the summer?

I obviously don't know. But I have some suspicions and think it is incumbent on us to find out a little bit more about the people in the photo...would they like to work? Has anyone been trying to help them? are they mentally ill and been refused treatment? Are they drug addicted and willing to go into rehab if only facilities were available.

I realize this is a complex issue and we cannot solve this problem overnight. But since we are spending a lot of money to keep these people overnight...yes "these people", and apparently creating havoc for some other Vancouver residents, I for one would like to know a bit more about the people in this picture...their stories, how they got here, and what governments, community organizations and the general public should be doing to help them sort their lives around.

Maybe Councillor Jang and the HEAT team could take this on, and come up with some analysis and recommendations...again, specifically related to the people in this picture.


Michael,

I agree with your questions and would like to know the answers. Especially the 'where do they come from' question. Are they really from Vancouver, or even BC? Why does Vancouver have to have such open arms when other municipalities / provinces do not?

Like freeways through cities, build it and they will come.

I think the original HEAT project was a huge success in that it allowed the housing of some approx. 450 otherwise homeless per night with only a month or so of planning. It truly was a successful emergency plan before winter set in and in all likelihood saved lives. It really showed the difference on the homelessness file between this current council and its predecessor.

However, the original "emergency" was our need for the prompt opening of the shelters which has now been accomplished, and I don't see why council wouldn't take this opportunity between winters to look at the current hurriedly-produced plan from top to bottom and consider alternative arraingments that involve staff and the public to a greater degree.

Why commit to a plan that didn't have the benefit of time during its construction, now that we have time to make a more harmonious plan? No neighbourhood should be able to veto what is best for the city as a whole, however, could we not over the next few months find more common ground? Shelters in areas that are less residential? Regulations that prioritize housing the well-behaved over those exhibiting anti-social behaviour? Genuinely incorporating the knowledge of surrounding residents rather than issuing a firm news release saying that no shelter will be closed BEFORE the public consultation?

We should not lower the number of beds in the HEAT program , but the replacement of shelters by other shelters, and the changing of regulations should absolutely be on the table.

Second, what crime are the people in the above picture committing?

A photo is just a moment of time. I would think this pic. was chosen by Daniel because it shows people and is colourful.
The drug trafficking and use in these shelters is continues, and there are other photos showing such. The trouble is the city has put violent drug addicted into an otherwise safe family oriented neighborhood.
I agree that the city must address the homelessness issue, but at what expense, endangering the lives of the tax payer? This is a hugh problem that can only be settled by making these people more responsible for themselves. So stop giving to the spoilt, and invest the money in the ones that need it.
Spend the money that is used to warehouse these guys to build a bigger jail for the criminals, a bigger hospital for those needing assistance and a treatment centre to assist the addicted to clean up and become contributers to a better society.

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