Saturday, October 6, 2007

Carnegie: Deserving Poor v. Undeserving Poor

Yesterday I addressed the Board at Carnegie reminding them that it is getting cold outside and the street homeless problem is still there. I was told to bring up my concern in next months committee meeting. I became ballistic.

I have been attempting to get Carnegie to take a lead in MAKE STORYEUM A SHELTER for a year now and the only things that Carnegie has done are kindergaten activities like going on a treasurer hunt to Victoria looking for money for housing and dressing up as fishes. At no time did the CCAP refer to MAKE STORYEUM A SHELTER in any of its actions.

The establishment wanting to keep the status quo as it is could not have conspired with a better organization than the Carnegie Centre.

I am sick of this binary outlook in the DTES: deserving poor v. undeserving poor. The non-deserving poor deserve to be without shelter. The worst group for following this doctrine are those that are the deserving poor who for the most part were at one time undeserving.

Carnegie should have been devoting its time and resources to getting shelter for those on the street and not believe that a few hundred people (Citywide Coalition) will change the governments refusal to fund adequate affordable housing. It isn't going to happen so we need shelters to house the increasing number of economic refugees.

There is a ready made solution to street homelessness in Vancouver and that is STORYEUM. It is owned by the City and it has been vacant since November 2006 at which time I did attend at City Council and spoke to this (Jean Swanson was in the audience) and yet no one had the vision to do anything about it.

What is happening now: the members of the Strathcona BIA are double iron gating its properties so that even a doorway is no longer available for the street homeless to rest at night. Just look at all the service providers who also have double gated their entrances. The service providers should be fighting for shelters not paying for bars.

For each life lost on the streets of Vancouver during 2007-2008, the Carnegie Centre has to take most of the blame. A recent report by Gerry Fox stated that the DTES has 10 deaths a week which is 5X the amount in other Vancouver neighbourhoods. Such a high death rate is attributable to inadequate housing, inadequate food, inadequate health care, addictions, distress, etc.

Judy Graves of the City told me that shelters are not the answer as shelters are expensive. How can sleeping on the floor in a vacant building be expensive. It is far less expensive than having the homeless depend on hospitalization and jail to keep warm.

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