Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Homelessness in Vancouver

Just came back from the Special Committee meeting on the
Homeless Action Plan
at Vancouver City Hall. There were old
and new faces making submissions to Larry Campbell, Mayor
and Chair and city council. Most endorsing the plan, some
certain parts, or groups, some breaking it down into
another advising the City to grab the social funding money
from the Feds as fast as can be. The speakers list numbered
at 45,
I can't believe they'll get through that tonight. Not all
who spoke
were cheery and approving of the plan. One woman
from the
Aboriginal Mother's Centre was very articulate at
where the report really discusses the epidemic
homelessness of
too many Aboriginal people.

The stats don't
tell the story. None of them do. It bothers me so
much that
"homeless people" really are faceless, invisible and
to so many people. It makes it easy to think of people as
disposable and not worthy of the wealthy state providing a
social safety net to those who don't make it so well in this New Era
of hope and benefit for so many others. Privilege and a relative
economic level of success makes many people forget, or maybe
they never understood how close anyone can be to homelessness
when you make a crappy minimum wage job, or are on welfare.
For the life of me I can't understand how I used to live on $8 an
hour of full time wage slave work in record stores. I had my own
basement suite, took transit, went to college, and partied a lot
(it was the 90's and the "alternative" scene"). But even though
I was able to do it, I was always keenly aware that I was one lost
day of work was the difference between paying rent and not.
But I also had parents to rely on and in this world, there are
many who don't have that source of support. Most kids in care
don't have that. They get a wave goodbye and a nice to know you
at the welfare office, sometimes before they are even 19. If they
are lucky they've still got contact with some family members.

I was one of the earlier speakers, I concentrated my comments
on the systemic failure of all level of governments to provide the
basic necessities of life to children and youth in our society and
how that is contrary to our prevailing legislation, provincially the
Child, Family & Community Services Act (2002).

I also made reference to Articles 27 & 34 of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, (
September 2, 1990).

I talked about some of the risk factors and reasons young people
end up on the street, mainly to do with abuse and neglect, family
breakdown and choice, because home is intolerable. I talked about
the high-risk for contracting HIV, Hep B & C and not being able
to access health services. These are all things that are happening
here in this city.

I wasn't able to really discuss much about the sexual abuse and
exploitation of children and youth that is happening in this city,
probably even as I write this. Vancouver is internationally known
for an open-air sex market for our children. What the hell is wrong
with this picture? Maybe we should put some pretty pictures of
12 year olds having their bodies and souls being sold on the
brochure for the Olympics. I have known some of these children
and the adults they become. They are so lost, disconnected and
marginalized and most can't find their way out of the life alive.
All levels of government ignore this issue while they spend millions
on the Gomery Inquiry. While they have raids in our Legislature
related to money laundering, influence peddling and bribery.
While city councillours and other big wigs fly to Torino, Italy
for a little Olympic fact-finding mission on our dime. The lack
of effort on the part of governments to deal the sexual exploit-
ation of children in our city tells me that this is a tolerable and
acceptable thing to those who hold the power and the purse

I also wasn't able to get into the harrassment, scorn and victim-
ization youth experience at the hands of adults, other youth and
police officers employed by this city. I know there is a new joint
committee between the cops and Aboriginal youth, but bullying
by the cops is such an institutionalized problem, one that Chief
Constable Jamie Graham doesn't seem inclined to deal with
at all as we can see in the "twilight" trial and his general response
to anything Pivot Legal Society has to say.

I strongly advocated for a continuum of housing options for youth
and I too endorsed the plan.
After listening to a few more speakers,
it was time to go. My heart kind of went out to Larry and the city
council, as they had a long, long night ahead of them to look
and interested. It didn't take Peter Ladner long to lose
focus, as he was
checking and writing e-mail early into the sub-
missions. I'm glad we
could leave written submissions too, five
minutes went very fast, unless
you were the people who went
over and Larry had to cut them off,
if they'd let him. He was on
his best, most polite behaviour, that was clear. Too bad people
aren't given Robert's Rules of Order when they walk in the door.
It seemed like a comfortable, amiable atmosphere,
where every-
one knew their place and even the angry ones were
tolerated too.
Larry and the audience wished Ellen Woodsworth
and Jim Green
a happy birthday and the house erupted in laughter
as one
presenter's trouth moubles had him picking a word that
with city, but not quite as tame. As I was leaving I saw
Kim Kerr
from DERA giving the bored media a good sound bite for

tomorrow's news. And as many people expressed, they would sit

back and wait for the action part of the plan to kick in. The
is real and valid. Too many reports, consultations and
Too little action, change and improvement in the
circumstances of our most vulner
able citizens. I'm not holding
my breathe, but I am hopeful that
this council, if it can find a way
to stay together, will hear most of us and really advocate for the

Homeless Action Plan to move forward. The rest is up to the
provincial and federal governments and ourselves.
Homeless Plan Hears Delegations
May, 25 2005 - 10:00 PM

VANCOUVER(CKNW/AM980) - Lots of criticism for the
provincial and federal governments, as Vancouver City Council
listened to dozens of delegations on the issue of homelessness.

The list of speakers was short on people with first hand struggles.

Instead, council heard plenty from advocates, many of them
pleading for improvements to income assistance.

"and I stand here ashamed at the state that our welfare system
is in."

As well as affordable shelter.

"the federal government bowing out of social housing has created
a huge mess."

The occasion was the city's Homeless Action Plan, which received
repeated praise from delegations.

Its main recommendations involve the higher levels of government.

Homeless in Vancouver
David Schreck, (May 27, 2005).

"Changing access to welfare would have a significant effect on
reducing the homelessness that we see on the streets everyday.
It would then be possible for people to have money for rent and
move inside."

Homeless Action Plan, City of Vancouver, April 26, 2005, p. 6.

At a Special Council meeting on May 25, 2005, Vancouver City Council
adopted recommendations contained in the Homeless Action Plan.
Adoption of the plan, with minor modifications, follows a process that
took almost two years. It began with a request by Council on August 13,
2003, that a staff member be designated as the city's "homeless policy
co-ordinator". The City has done a good job focusing on what can be done
about homelessness, but as the city manger said in her report to council:
"The majority of the plan implementation, however, is dependent on the level
of Senior Government commitment as the underlying causes of homelessness
are within the jurisdiction of the Provincial and Federal governments."
Additional Commentary:

<>I am so digusted with the local press. There were at least 10
journalists at the Special Committee meeting. In the days
since, in my daily rounds of the media, the silence with which
the entire issue of homelessness is treated in the mainstream
media is absolutely unforgivable. Poor people clearly don't
count, matter, or exist in this so-called beautiful province of BC.
Unless they are causing inconvenience to the privileged, or
momentarily tweaking their white liberal guilt as they walk
on by in $200 shoes drinking their Starbucks. You should all
be ashamed of yourselves and I don't even know how you can
call yourselves journalists, or media, when you ignore such an
important issue. "But for the grace of God, so go I. "
In this world of globalization, no one is safe from marginalization.
Compassion and care for the plight of our most vulnerable
behooves us all. Someday you, or someone you love could live
and die on the street. Just ask the loved ones of Pickton's victims.
Those lost, beautiful women disappeared and died invisibly, because
none of us cared enough. My thoughts go to those women, to their
families and friends and all the other people who rest their heads on
concrete each night. I hope that people get it that poverty and
marginalization affect all of us, not just those who live it.

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