- Rich Coleman - December 02, 2009
How about the Duty of Care the current administration had toward not creating an explosion of homelessness, marginalization and social exclusion? The BC Liberal government bears a great deal of responsibility and with the Big Party coming, they need to get the blight of BC's homelessness off the streets somehow.
Problem is, and it's a BIG PROBLEM: THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH G.D. SHELTER BEDS TO ACCOMMODATE ALL OF THE PEOPLE POLICE ARE SUPPOSED TO "ESCORT" AGAINST THEIR WILL IN THE FIRST BLOODY CASE.
This Act is idiotic, unenforceable and vile. And it wouldn't pass a Charter case, but they're going to try to ram this through.
To prove my point, I want one of Coleman's minions to sit down with the Shelter list and start calling each one for a bed one day. They must report out how many beds are available. Do it four times, once in every season.
I am personally issuing a Double Dog Dare to Rich Coleman and Gordon Campbell -
Here are the Rules of Engagement:
- Each of these individuals will live 1 day/24 hours in the life of a homeless person in the Downtown Eastside.
- They leave their money, ID, phones - basically everything they own behind. They will be given a garbage bag so they can use that if they find things that might be helpful along the way.
- They will be dropped off at Main & Hastings with $2, early in the morning, often the time the homeless must be out of the shelters. For 24 hours they will try to survive, with no assistance from highly paid peons, just themselves.
- This new life will happen in winter, the temperature is dropping. They will be given runners that have a hole in the bottom and no socks. They will each be given an unwashed donated jacket.
- Realizing you need to focus on where you will eat and sleep for the day you will each need to figure out where you can find food and shelter. You don't know the numbers of shelters, or have a phone to call any of them (Blackberries left behind). You find out you can make a couple of calls for free at some drop-ins, but lots of people need to use the phone too. Every shelter you call tells you they don't have any beds for that night.
- Someone tells you about a free lunch at the church, so you go get in line. It's started raining really hard, but you're pretty hungry and breakfast was a few hours ago so you just have to deal with it. After the long wait, you have some food and are soaked to the bone now and feeling really cold.
- You still haven't found a shelter bed for tonight.
- As you wander around, there is nowhere to go, you will notice all around you people who are, like you, homeless. Some are obviously on drugs, or mentally ill. You see that lady at the bus stop, she's picking up butts. She is talking to herself. As you walk by her, you see she has soiled herself and you notice she is walking around with her buttocks exposed and she doesn't have a jacket. Her cheeks are sunken in and she is shivering and mumbling to herself. [Ed. I know they wouldn't wonder, but they should ask themselves - how did she get like this? What has happened to her? Why isn't anyone doing anything to help her? ]
- Someone tells you of another shelter you might try, it's still raining and getting colder and you walk to that shelter. You get there and there is no bed for today.
- It's really, really cold and wet out there, it's almost snowing and it's now dark. The night comes early this time of year. You really never noticed that too much before.
- You found out about another place you can get some dinner. You get in that line. You notice something, you saw some of the same people at the other line up earlier in the day, or people you saw walking around.
- you drag out the meal as long as you can, still soaked, you have no place to sleep tonight. Where do you go?
- You remember you still have the $2, since you haven't been able to find a bed at any shelters you decide to go find a restaurant you can buy a coffee. You will spend some time in there. You go in and ask to buy a coffee. You're really surprised at how rude the worker is to you. What's their problem, what did you do to deserve that?
- Someone at another table starts telling you their story. They say they got in an accident at work, couldn't work. WCB wouldn't pay up, said they weren't hurt. Their employer fired them. Couldn't pay rent, applied for EI and welfare but because they got fired they can't get onto either. Their family tried to help out for a bit, but, you ended up on the street. You don't know what to say.
- You stay and stay and stay at the restaurant. You ask for re-fills but don't have any more money. The assistant manager says you have to go, this place isn't a shelter he tells you. You don't have any money to buy stuff, you can't stay here. As you leave you hear him say under his breathe "go get a job ya bum."
- Now what? The rain has turned to snow. It's so cold. You never knew before today that there were so many different kinds of cold. Better find somewhere under cover.
- Found a spot, looks like someone puked here earlier, just avoid that area, at least its out of the rain/snow. It is SO cold. Never been cold like this before. Hear voices and a flashlight is shined right in your face. "Hey, you can't stay here, get outta here. This is private property." It's a security guard. They say, "hey, I'm not looking for any problems, just wanted to be dry." As you leave you hear them say "fuckin' crackheads." You decide not to tell them it's not true, it might start something.
- On the move again, need another spot. See people smoking crack at one place. Find another area, security comes. Move again. You feel so tired. And cold. You think to yourself, I can't continue like this all night. But where do I go?
- Find another spot. It's too cold and wet to sleep, but I'll just close my eyes for a second. Next thing you know, someone is shouting at you. "Hey, you can't stay here. We're taking you to a shelter" shouts a VPD police officer. "It's the new law."
- You say "good, I was trying to get a bed earlier, I couldn't get one. Which shelter has the bed?" The cop says he's not sure, they're waiting to find out. But, while they wait, they'll put you in cuffs and in the back of the car.
- You hear the radio crackle a lot, there's a lot going on, but these guys are here with me now. Waiting to find out where the bed is. And waiting. And waiting. No bed at any shelter. Now what do they do with you?
- You aren't apparently crazy. Cops tell you that you aren't a risk to yourself, or others. We can't take you to the hospital, it would just put you out anyways. We need to get to a call. They unlock the cuffs, they say you can get out of the car. You can go but move along from this area. We don't want to see you here again tonight they say.
- But where to now? Feeling exhausted, sore, wet and cold, hopeless, alone. Only a few hours left to go until the morning. Start walking again. It's really coming down now, but more rain than snow at least.
- Somebody starts yelling at you " what are you lookin' at?" They're coming toward you. You say "I don't want any problems, I'm just walking by." You're pretty scared the guy might hit you. You hurry up and get out of there.
- You finally find a spot, you avoid the human waste, but at least its out of the rain. It's started to snow again. You stay there. You don't sleep, anything could happen if you do. You don't know what time it is, but, when it starts getting lighter you start making your way back to Main & Hastings. You can't stop shivering. Your hands are shaking. Your feel are numb, so it takes a long time to walk there. There are already people gathering.
- As your ride comes to pick you up, you realize that another day of being homeless in the Downtown Eastside has just started for these people. Your assistant arrives, they are shocked at your appearance. And you know you smell. But you get to leave. You get out alive. Many don't.
- And people wonder how, or why people become homeless. Many of us are one paycheque away from poverty. One car accident away from missed rent payments. One lost job away from an eviction notice and being homeless.
- And people wonder why some street people do drugs.
- And people wonder why some street people are mentally ill.
After living on the streets, death becomes a shadow friend, something a little closer than it was before. And some days, maybe the solution to the endless, grinding life ahead.
VPD's Silence on Shelter Act Doesn't Worry Coleman
Province fine tuning details on how to implement controversial law
Mike Howell, Vancouver Courier. Dec. 2, 2009.Housing Minister Rich Coleman said Monday he is not concerned that Police Chief Jim Chu has not publicly endorsed provincial legislation that allows police to remove homeless people from the streets.
"Jim is the chief and he'll use the laws that are at his disposal, and whatever they choose to do as far as their policy in the City of Vancouver is fine," Coleman told the Courier.
Coleman said the government is still working out the logistics of police transporting a homeless person who may have a cart or other belongings that wouldn't fit in a police car.
The new act gives police the power to use "reasonable force, if necessary" during an extreme weather alert to transport a homeless person to a shelter. If that person refuses to stay at a shelter, police cannot hold the person there, Coleman said.
With the act unlikely to be repealed, the focus has to be on ensuring there's enough shelter space and that homeless people seek shelter rather than get picked up by police, Jang said.