Friday, December 26, 2008

Why Shelters are Not Full

From: Audrey Jane Laferriere audreylaferriere@yahoo.ca
Subject: HEAT
To: mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca
Received: Tuesday, December 23, 2008, 11:30 PM

I cannot believe the incompetence of the highly paid, secretative experts who are part of HEAT. Their meetings are closed. My community keeps asking me who the hell is Janice Abbott? David Eby has sold out. And Chief Patrick Stewart should be tarred and feathered. The Aboriginal Homeless Streeting Committee as far as I know has not met in years. This goes to the fact leaders of the aboriginal poor do not give a damn about their street homeless people. As for the government paid "experts" they all are not even worth mentioning. When were they ever street homeless?

What has angered me these few days when I was doing volunteer outreach and telling the street people where the shelters are and what hours they operate I did not see one information sign and neither I have seen any outreach workers. The GVSS sends out alerts to shelters, community centres, the police and the media. This serves little purpose except for voter and media PR. It appears that they are doing something.

Every intersection utility pole should have a shelter bulletin pasted on it. And the shelters all should have blue lights at their doors so the homeless (as well as the taxpayers) know where the shelters are. Have you ever tired to find the women's shelter at the Lifeskills Centre on Cordova. I was there the day before yesterday and its entrance was double locked, it was dark, there was a buzzer which was extremely difficult to find, and there was no sign outside. This is also true at Powell Place for Women and the new shelter under the Granville Street bridge across from Unitow. No wonder the shelters have reported that they are not full. It is obvious if the target population cannot find shelters, the shelters are going to be empty.

The reasoning that word spreads by "word and mouth" is lame. Word of mouth only works for the seasoned street wise overly agressive crack head. What about the working poor and the new poor and the woman who just ran out of an abusive relationship with her children at 7:00 p.m. and those that have given up on the system.

Every intersection utility pole should have a shelter bulletin pasted on it. And the shelters all should have blue lights at their doors so the homeless (as well as the taxpayers) know where the shelters are. Have you ever tired to find the women's shelter at the Lifeskills Centre on Cordova. I was there the day before yesterday and its entrance was double locked, it was dark, there was a buzzer which was extremely difficult to find, and there was no sign outside. This is also true at Powell Place for Women and the new shelter under the Granville Street bridge across from Unitow. No wonder the shelters have reported that they are not full. It is obvious if the target population cannot find shelters, the shelters are going to be empty.

The reasoning that word spreads by "word and mouth" is lame. Word of mouth only works for the seasoned street wise overly agressive crack head. What about the working poor and the new poor and the woman who just ran out of an abusive relationship with her children at 7:00 p.m. and those that have given up on the system.

When I am in front of the First United Church I tell street people that it is open 21 hours a day and carts can be stored there and I am told that they did not know. The same when I tell others that there is a Women's Shelter at Life Skills. And when I am on Broadway they know even less. The homeless do not have access to the internet, newspaper, radio, television or even telephones. They live each day by the minute and such electronic communications are something they do not even have the energy to seek out.

From my understanding there are three independent shelters (First United is considered independent) as well as the HEAT shelters and the GVSS shelters: I was told that DERA and Potters Mission in the DTES have also opened up space for the homeless (both independents).

Audrey Laferriere
http://ca.mc316.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=audreylaferriere@yahoo.ca
778-329-1250

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