Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Accommodating the Homeless

"I don't think there's much question that in a better climate where you can stay warm and dry at night, that will have an impact [on where the homeless choose to migrate]."
"It's not a narrative that gets talked about a lot. The number of people in homeless shelters is just the tip of the iceberg."
Nick Falva, director, research and data, Calgary Homeless Foundation

"The word is out that there are certain places in Canada ... where those behaviours [drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues] will be more likely tolerated."
"[It's] not really that remarkable a find [that homeless people are moving to Vancouver."
Julian Somers, lead author, report on homelessness in Canada

"All the planning was based on the assumption that if you built enough housing everything would be hunky-dory. As it turns out ... it ain't that easy."
"[A] new generation [of homeless people began flooding in to Vancouver from as far as Ontario; younger, drug-addicted, aggressive and averse to help]."
"It's not the shuffling guy with his hand out; they're getting angrier. People are scarier. It's taken on a very different public persona."
Kerry Jang, psychiatrist, Vancouver city councillor
Video thumbnail for COURT CAMPERS

Vancouver is known as a laid back place with a mild climate where the homeless can look forward to certain advantages not so widely available elsewhere. A 20-hour Greyhound bus trip to the West Coast doesn't cost all that much. There have been other studies identifying patterns of homeless people taking to migrating to cities where a reputation for aid to the homeless beckons. Cities as far-ranging as Osaka, Japan to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to New York City.

The West Coast of North America is disproportionately receiving homeless people. According to a 2013 study, five of the seven largest homeless populations have congregated along the Pacific Ocean, in Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle, south of the Canadian border. In 2008, then-mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson campaigned on a pledge to end homelessness by 2015.

His "housing first" campaign was based on an idea that before drug addiction on the streets can be fought, the need to house the homeless must first be addessed. An aggressive social housing building event took place with the government of British Columbia lending over $143-million to the enterprise that resulted in a network of cheap, "single-room occupancy" hotels in hopes of rehabilitating this segment of the population.

And it succeeded very nicely, reducing the homeless count. And then it shot up again. Where there were 536 people sleeping outside, homeless in 2015, increased from a high of 273 in 2014. Middle-aged alcoholics comprised the majority of the homeless in 2008, and they were mostly housed in 2008. Victoria too, on Vancouver Island has been receiving waves of homeless people. Notoriously a downtown park is now occupied by a tent city.

Steven L'Heureux, left, and Gord Ross live in a tent city that is growing next to the Victoria courthouse. It began with one or two tents in August but has since expanded to 20 to 30.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist - See more at:
Steven L'Heureux, left, and Gord Ross live in a tent city that is growing next to the Victoria courthouse. It began with one or two tents in August but has since expanded to 20 to 30.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist - See more at:

Photo, Darren Stone, Times Colonist

The Government of British Columbia produced campers to provide alternative housing and food in Victoria. They bought a $3.65-million building to house the homeless, but it was all rejected by the residents of the tent city. Protesters from the population at large supported their ongoing occupation of the park which has turned the nearby area into a crime hub, where discarded needles and public defecation enriches city life.

In Medicine Hat, Alberta, the city chose to become the first city in Canada to end homelessness. Their success was brief, attracting homeless people from afar. Housing has been found in the city of 61,000 for 885 people, an estimated 45 percent of them new to the city. "That was actually quite alarming to us", admitted Jaime Rogers with the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society.

Somers' team followed 400 homeless people over a ten-year period to identify an emerging and clear pattern. Mentally ill people settle into the Downtown Eastside, beginning a steady routine of hospital admissions, clinic visits, arrests and court appearances. Health goes into a downward spiral and after racking up hundreds of thousands in city services, they die at an early age: "This is clearly not a positive story."

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