Sunday, October 12, 2008

15 NOVEMBER 2008

A vote for Audrey Jane Laferriere means a “yes” for City-owned 142 Water/Cordova Streets (old Storyeum location) to become a minimalist Shelter, a 24-hour Community Centre, and a Detox Centre for metro Vancouver. It can also be used as an emergency preparedness centre. Storyeum has been without a long-term tenant since November 2006. Each vote for Audrey Jane Laferriere will say that you want the above. With 100,000 votes, it is absolutely certain that the next elected City Council will amend its existing policy and immediately create more shelters so no one is living on the streets. All the political parties have written policies against shelters. So, your vote is important. Remember it is the voters who tell the politicians what to do.

Last year there were 36,000 turnaways from shelters within a nine-month period. Why because all of the service providers, advocates, churches, unions and aboriginal leaders in the DTES oppose more shelters. They either are unthinking or they want to believe in “housing first.” Before “housing first” can be implemented, we need affordable housing: It can’t be done with a zero vacancy rate. Unfortunately, the governments listen to this “cart before the horse” logic. This backward logic has been the status quo for as long as I can remember (20 years). Using the argument that there should be no temporary solutions is cruel and barbaric. The street homeless have to be sheltered even if it is a mat on a floor. Providing minimalist shelters should be an essential service apart from affordable/social housing. Unless 142 Water/Cordova happens, or there is an alternative, we will continue to put the most vulnerable at risk. Shelters will not solve the underlying reasons for homelessness but it will solve the problem now of people living on the streets.

It is questionable what the DTES non-profits (all 470) do but one thing for certain is that they are not looking after the street marginalized. These organizations all have narrow special interest mandates none of which includes more shelters. And when questioned about their individual responsibility to the street homeless, they hide behind/cite their job descriptions. The United Church is willing to use its premises as a drug injection sanctuary if needed but will not use its DTES underground parking as an outside shelter. VANDU does not support more shelters although most of its members are sick and homeless. Last November the Vancouver Food Bank closed its depot in the DTES without notice. The executive director of the food bank skis at Whistler, shops at Holt Renfrew and earns $150K. She recently was the author/chair of a report by the Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness against shelters. Lookout is very concerned over the fact that a few of the street homeless are not from Vancouver and therefore no new shelter space should be created. Dumb logic. The aborigiinal community does not want shelters for its own people preferring to wait for Federal funding. The Aboriginal Front Door at Hastings and Main has on its door "Do not Sleep in the Doorway." The City and the non-profits are busily double gating their properties to prevent the homeless from sleeping in their doorways. The voice of the DTES is the Carnegie Centre that wrongly believes that it speaks for the DTES residents. If it were true then no one would be living on the streets. The street homeless are in survival mode and cannot fight for themselves. We assume these organizations are looking after the street homeless but they are not.

The street homeless in the DTES experiences 500X the death rate over overall neighbourhoods in the City. We as a City cannot wait until “real” housing is built while the street homeless suffer needlessly because they lack adequate nutrition, inadequate health care, emotional distress, inadequate shelter, inadequate sleep, inadequate hygiene, exposure to the elements, and inadequate personal safety. And it is costing the taxpayer $55,000 annually for welfare, health and policing per homeless person. And the new $5.4 million DTES community court has a basketball court… and the not-yet 3800 social housing units Ladner speaks of does not replace the 6400 lost SRO rooms. We need more shelters now.

We need the old Storyeum location to be a centralized minimalist shelters for metro Vancouver (skytrain stops at Waterfront) so those that are homeless or at risk of homelessness know where to go. Later they can be referred to other shelters/resources/housing. A shelter like Storyeum should be centralized for efficiencies and social housing should be scattered. We do not need a high-end furniture store from Iran/Germany, a high-end bowling alley from New West, or a high-end fitness gym and spa from North Carolina at this location.

epetition: Audrey Jane Laferriere (778-329-1250)

Meet me at 142 Water Street Sunday afternoons from 2:00 to 4:00.
View the >5,000 signature paper shelter petition with comments like shelters saved my life...
View the 5,000 signature paper petition wanting more shelters with comments


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