Pubdate: Wed, 17 Feb 2016
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Black Press
Author: Tom Fletcher
Page: A6


Housing Minister Rich Coleman was flabbergasted at the angry response
to his solution to the Victoria courthouse "tent city," the latest
tarp-covered camp to spring up in southern B.C.

Coleman announced two temporary shelters with three meals a day and
medical supports. One is a former nursing home close to the courthouse
squat, conveniently located near panhandling and drug dealing spots as
well as taxpayer-funded services. The other offers indoor or outdoor
tent space at a former youth custody centre, with a dedicated downtown
shuttle bus so these "victims" of "homelessness" don't have to endure
B.C.'s most generous transit bus system.

We weren't consulted, said the indignant spokespeople for those
bringing new-looking tents to take advantage of food and other
handouts, offered in B.C.'s warmest climate by the province's most
naive local government.

But this was just a show for the media by our resident professional
protesters, some of whom aren't really "homeless."

After the reaction, which Coleman described as "bizarre," the combined
88 housing opportunities are being snapped up. Those on welfare will
have to fork over their $375 monthly housing allowance, as the
province continues to convert more housing and offer more rent subsidies.

It's no wonder that southern B.C. is the destination of choice.
Coleman said it's always been a seasonal thing, but this winter has
been the highest in a decade, largely due to an exodus of economic
migrants from the downturn in Alberta, naturally heading for B.C.'s
most desirable real estate.

I asked him about two other homeless hotspots. In Abbotsford, campers
have ignored a city deadline to take down structures in a
three-year-old camp, after temporary shelter and costly provincial
supports were brought on. A courtroom and street confrontation looms
with self-styled "drug war survivors" and their Vancouver legal help.

In Maple Ridge, a tent camp sprang up next to the local Salvation Army
shelter, with people cycling through the shelter's 15-day limit,
camping and being fed until they could go back in.

Mayor Nicole Read, who has worked in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside,
said Maple Ridge took on its own outreach, shelter and housing effort
because the province's $1 million-a-year Salvation Army operation
isn't working.

Coleman is not amused. He said he's had no complaints about
Abbotsford's Salvation Army shelter, and Read is the only one griping.
And no mayor is going to tell him how to spend provincial dollars.
Maple Ridge now has two shelters with accompanying street drugs,
prostitution and crime.

I asked Coleman about the 10-year-study led by Simon Fraser University
researcher Julian Somers on the housing, outreach and services in
Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. This is the heart of B.C.'s "housing
first" strategy, where the province has bought and renovated 30
"single room occupancy" buildings, built another dozen and poured in
every possible support, including the buyout of high-living executives
at the Portland Hotel Society.

The study found that the hardest cases are worse off than ever, based
on court, hospital and other service records, while the influx to the
notorious Vancouver drug ghetto have tripled in 10 years.

"I haven't had a chance to go over that report yet, but I disagree
with the assumption I've heard already, because I walk the Downtown
Eastside," Coleman said. "I don't know if they do every few weeks to a
month, but I've been doing it for about nine or 10 years and I can
tell you it's a whole lot better down there."

The question is whether problems are being solved, or just better
hidden from view.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt