Pubdate: Thu, 04 Feb 2016
Source: Alberni Valley News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Alberni Valley News
Author: Tom Fletcher


Communities around B.C. are struggling to cope with the continued
influx of what politicians call "homelessness," a term that suggests
the problem can be solved merely by providing more homes.

Taxpaying citizens see the daily reality behind the soothing
euphemisms - mainly transients squatting in parks and "tent cities"
blighted by drug abuse and crime, and "homeless" shelters that fill up
as soon as they open. They worry that the continued costly supply of
supports only invites more arrivals, particularly in the gentle
climate of southwestern B.C.

Their worries are well founded. In Abbotsford, a 40-bed "temporary
weather shelter" made from industrial camp trailers opened in December
with a $450,000 operating grant from B.C. Housing.

It was full in 10 days. Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich told city
council in January that his bike officers don't recognize most of the
shelter occupants from their constant patrols of local tent camps, the
largest of which has been on a city-owned roadside site since 2013.

In Maple Ridge, a "low barrier harm reduction" shelter was opened last
fall in response to a growing tent camp and accompanying drug dealing,
prostitution and petty crime.

One resident noted bitterly that a mayor's task force had identified
42 unsheltered homeless people, then found places for 77 from the
camp, 40 from a closing "temporary" shelter and 40 in a new shelter.
"How exactly does one house 157 out of 42?" she asked.

Victoria's camping population has gathered in an Occupy-style squat on
provincial land next to the courthouse, after years of uncontrolled
camping in Beacon Hill and other city parks.

The city opened a shelter in a vacant Boys and Girls Club gym,
complete with new indoor tents. By the time that was full, the
courthouse camp was bigger than ever, with some occupants describing
how they came to town for the opportunity. One said Vancouver Police
gave her a bus ticket to Victoria.

The latest plan by a local agency that runs Victoria shelters is to
convert an old, empty seniors' care home into a 101-bed permanent
housing facility. This would also be "low barrier," a euphemism for
allowing drug and alcohol consumption in the rooms.

The city has come up with around $1 million for this project, in a
residential area next to a school, but it still needs millions more to
renovate and run it. This would presumably come from B.C. taxpayers
via our social housing czar, deputy premier Rich Coleman.

Coleman pioneered this "housing first" experiment in 2007, buying up
13 century-old "single-room occupancy" hotels in Vancouver's notorious
Downtown Eastside. These crumbling bedbug habitats were bought and
renovated for a staggering $143 million, plus a 15-year maintenance
commitment and a cop assigned to each one in an effort to contain the
chaos inside.

Coleman brags endlessly about the great job he has done, but how is
that actually working? A new study by Simon Fraser University
researchers provides a more objective assessment.

Tracking 433 mentally ill homeless adults over 10 years, the study
found the concentration of low-rent accommodation, food handouts,
street outreach and medical supports resulted in "significant personal
decline rather than recovery, as evidenced by their involvement in the
criminal justice system, large increases in acute care and prolonged

The rate of people arriving in this service-intensive hellhole has
tripled in the last 10 years, a finding similar to studies of
concentrated services in New York, Sao Paulo and Osaka.

It's a cautionary tale for other urban communities where this failed
containment model is proposed.
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MAP posted-by: Matt