Minister snuffs out HEAT shelter fire

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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Minister Coleman left to stamp out the mess left by Mayor Robertson & Vision Vancouver

Our email box continues to flood in with complaints, concerns and queries from residents living in downtown Vancouver who feel under siege by Mayor Robertson and his Vision government. Yesterday we received a copy of a news release they issued to the media regarding the no-barrier HEAT shelters Robertson rammed into their community without so much as an hour of consultation with local residents.

We've decided to publish the news release in its entirety in order that you can get a feel for what the community is going through.

Vancouver, B.C. – June 29, 2009 – Tough new rules introduced by Mayor Gregor Robertson to curb problems at two no-barrier shelters in False Creek North have failed miserably according to Concerned Citizens of False Creek North.

Since the news conference June 25th when the Mayor announced his crack down on trouble-makers at the two no-barrier shelters he imposed on the community, False Creek North residents have documented flagrant violations of the new rules.

“Mayor Gregor Robertson is either incapable or unwilling to deal with the problem that he alone created,” said Dave Rothwell “All we get from the Mayor is a lot of empty talk and no concrete action.”

Last Thursday Mayor Gregor Robertson held a news conference where he outlined his plan addressing the problems in the community that have arisen since the two HEAT shelters opened in December and February. False Creek North residents have seen a dramatic deterioration of the neighbourhood including individuals carrying weapons, open drug use and drug dealing, public sex acts, urination and defecation in flower beds, stairwells and parks. The area is littered with used syringes, needles and condoms. Residents including children have been taunted and threatened by shelter clients and associates.

What has happened at the shelters since the Mayor’s Thursday news conference?

Within hours of the Mayor’s announcement on the steps already implemented, a shelter client who threatened to stab False Creek North resident John Roberts with a syringe, was arrested and charged with several offences.

The Mayor said the Vancouver Police Department had provided the shelters with a list of “bad apples”; those causing serious problems or with a history of drug dealing, assault and theft. These individuals are refused admittance.

The Mayor also said that shelter users who are seen doing drugs, dealing or purchasing drugs in the vicinity are now banned from the shelter.

That same day, June 25, at approximately 6:30 p.m., two shelter residents were observed injecting drugs near the front doorway of the Howe Street shelter in plain view of the facility’s office window. Police were called. When police arrived, the two individuals ran into the shelter.

On Friday, June 26, False Creek North resident John Roberts observed the individual who was arrested the previous day for threatening him enter the shelter. The shelter resident was not turned away even though he was charged with criminal offences the previous day.

Civil Liberties experts interviewed in the media have stated the police cannot provide a list to shelters of undesirables and enforce it. Only a judge can issue an enforceable order barring individuals from a shelter.

The Mayor stated there are no longer in-out privileges at the shelters. Shelter clients would be escorted outdoors for cigarette breaks and monitored by shelter staff.

On Friday, June 26 a local television station set up a camera at the alley between the shelters from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. and observed individuals freely entering and leaving the shelter and congregating near its entrance.

The problems in this community are continuing despite the Mayor’s reassurances,” said Terry Kellogg “We are appealing to Housing Minister Rich Coleman to do the right thing and not to provide funding to the City of Vancouver until these two problematic shelters have been closed down.”

n the weekend, Mayor Gregor Robertson appealed to False Creek North residents to be patient.

“We have been patient,” said Dave Rothwell. “We’ve been patiently waiting for six months for the city to consult with residents and explain what bright light at City Hall thought it was a good idea to locate no-barrier shelters next to a pre-school in the heart of a popular tourist area.”

The two no-barrier shelters located at 1442 Howe St. and 1435 Granville St. were opened in December 2008 and February 2009 respectively as part of a 90-day winter HEAT (Homeless Emergency Action Team) “emergency mandate” and were originally scheduled to close in March 2009. Vancouver City Council bypassed normal requirements for Permits and Bylaws. Council did not inform community residents that the shelters were opening nor engage them in any public consultation process before approving the motion to extend the shelters to 2010.

These no-barrier shelters welcome clients refused entry at other city homeless shelters, including individuals with serious drug and alcohol problems. The shelters are located within metres of a pre-school and seniors’ residence and within blocks of elementary schools and a daycare. 

To schedule an interview or for other media inquiries, please contact Concerned Citizens of False Creek North (CCFCN) at CCFCN@live ca or spokespersons Lin Sheffield at (604) 683-5360 or Deidre Barlow at (604) 630-4137 or John Roberts (604) 619-0423.

In today's Globe and Mail, fellow civic affairs panelist Frances Bula has some breaking news about BC Housing Minister Rich Coleman's decision regarding funding to keep Robertson's HEAT shelter at Beach and Howe open past June 30th.

It would appear that Minister Coleman is using common sense and will no longer fund the shelter, but will find accommodation for the current residents elsewhere. Bula reports:

Housing Minister Rich Coleman says the province is going to shut down one of Vancouver's controversial new shelters under the Granville Bridge when the money runs out tomorrow and give the city 30 days to try to resolve problems with local residents concerning the second one.

Coleman told the Globe:

They've got to realign their priorities with ours. I'm not running two different housing strategies. I've said to [Mayor Robertson], 'Look, you have a problem. These shelters were your idea. If it's a priority for you, you should find it within your budget.

He went on to say:

This thing right now is taking momentum out of our efforts. Other neighbourhoods will decide they want none of this. I can't have that.

[Mayor Robertson] wants $26-million because they did some little slideshow presentation to the Premier. But their interim housing plan is pretty weak. It doesn't have anything substantial.

The Globe also reports the Province of BC is going to provide $8 million dollars to keep open a number of new shelter beds until at least 2010. This is great news for Vancouver's homeless population.

Could this be citizens and Minister 1, Robertson 0? Stay tuned, you can expect a lot more on this topic over the coming week as we get reaction from local residents and the Mayor.

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The NPA just issued this statement from Suzanne Anton about the shelters:

“Mayor Gregor Robertson’s poor planning and lack of consultation has caused the provincial government to pull the funding for the much needed Granville Homeless shelter. In two days from now, 36 homeless people will have to find new accommodations.

"The Mayor embarked on his HEAT shelters strategy with no plan and no consultation, and now we see one shelter on Granville being closed while another shelter at 1442 Howe Street is on a 30-day probation while the Province steps in to try and clean up the mess the Mayor has created.

“Mayor Robertson has failed the homeless residents of the shelter and he has failed neighbourhood residents by reneging on his promises of openness and consultation.

“I am also very troubled by Minister Rich Coleman’s comments about Mayor Robertson’s ‘amateurish’ bargaining tactics with the Province, and that the Mayor is taking momentum away from the Province’s housing strategy. We cannot afford to have City Hall at odds with the Provincial Government – clearly Mayor Robertson does not understand this and has shown he is unable to provide the leadership necessary to address the homelessness problem.

“Minister Coleman rightly points out that the Mayor’s mishandling of the HEAT shelters and the furore they have created will damage efforts to introduce housing for the mentally ill and drug addicted in other neighbourhoods and communities.

“I am encouraged that the Province is stepping in to try and engage the neighbourhood around the 1442 Howe Street shelter. In my experience, having been in regular contact with neighbourbood residents and the shelters themselves, I fear the opportunities for goodwill and working together have already been squandered.”
– 30 –

Wonder if Grinning Gregor likes ketchup with his crow ?

He needs something to get the bitter tastes of failure and arrogance out of his big mouth.

Mayor Robertson please meet your new task master...the Hon. Rich Coleman.

Despite Dr. Ballem's attempts to go for the jugular with the Province over the housing issue, she has just seen a lethal one/two combination thrown at her boss. I am pretty sure that Minister Coleman does not take too kindly to having his portfolio politicized at the best of times.

Clearly, Min. Coleman has called it on this one... yet another ill conceived social experiment in communal living gone completely off the rails.

Wow, Mayor R. & company really thought that opening a few temporary shelters and annoying if not terrifying a good majority of residents in the area was actually going to help? No screening process? We'll take everyone? There wasn't any screening to get into the superdome during Huricane Caterina...this alone should have been a solid enough example in how not to provide emergency shelter. Now Mayor R. talks about a few bad apples and cracking down on illegal activities... This will solve the immediate issues but what neighbourhood will ever consider taking this on again?

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the homelessness issues Vancouver experiences can be solved and within a reasonable time frame. I do however feel strongly that Mayor R.'s actions will have long term consequences and prolong any future resolution.

In all of this Kerry Jang has been justifying the placement of the shelters by claiming False Creek has always had a crime problem. He has gone so far as to say we have a 'kiddie stroll' (assuming he meant for young prostitutes). We do have 'kids' at the daycare and they do 'stroll' I suppose but not so much anymore.
His argument seems to be it's ok to inflict this crap on False Creek - they are used to crap.
Jang calls us 'irresponsible' and claims we are fabricating stories. Oh really? On CBC yesterday he attempts to discredit the CCFCN spokesperson by saying the emergency call she referenced was an ambulance for a pregnant woman - not a paddy wagon. There was in fact an ambulance before 2 other calls that night involving multiple police cars and paddy wagons. But hey -- work a pregnant woman in there and demonize the residents of FCN - good spin!
funny because when I think irresponsible I think Gregor, Jang, HEAT, backyard chickens, 205 sq foot subdivided condos, Burrard Bridge lane closures - stuff like that. And I also think RECALL.

This entire debacle with the HEAT shelters is just another sad attempt by an overzealous Mayor in his attempt to impose on the residents his views as to how we all should live.

Sadly, given the ineptitute of how the HEAT shelters have been run, the Mayor, Kerry Jang, and fellow counselors have made it next to impossible to secure any other shelters as no neighbourhood will want them in their backyard now. To be blunt, no neighbourhood will trust them anymore. Any good will that has been built up on the part of the public to the problems of the homeless have been destroyed by the current local goverment.

I'm also disgusted at the audacity of Kerry Jang for suggesting that all of the residens were making up the problems and that the residents should just shut up because they are used to crime. Given this type of comment, it is clear that Kerry Jang's intellgience, or lack thereof, is showing.

But perhaps the post above by PAE said it best. The new definition of irresponsible should be acting like Gregor and Jang. When's the next vote?

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