Thursday, June 16, 2005

Vancouver's Homeless Action Plan: Billion-Dollar Band-Aid?

The Homeless Action Plan has been given the unanimous approval of Vancouver city council. While I'm in full support of social housing, I have a few questions.

Are there really 8,000 homeless people in Vancouver?
The plan calls for the construction of 8,000 social housing units over the next 10 years. I know there are many people sleeping in alleys and parks, but 8,000? I don't think so.

Why call it the Homeless Action Plan?
Assuming there isn't really an army of 8,000 homeless folks wandering Vancouver streets, this program seems aimed more at general housing improvement for Vancouver's less fortunate residents. If that's the case, why not call it something more descriptive, like the Housing Improvement Plan?

Why the city of Vancouver?
Although a budget hasn't been formalized, this project will clearly have a huge price tag. I tried multiplying 8,000 by the estimated $130,000-per-unit cost but my calculator doesn't display enough digits. Maybe that's why they haven't been able to whip up a budget.

Shouldn't the provincial and federal governments contribute? Frankly, I don't understand how Vancouver can afford a project of this magnitude.

Is this the best use of our money?
As I understand it, most people aren't homeless because there are not enough houses and apartments. It's not as if there is a zero vacancy rate in Vancouver. The real underlying reasons for homelessness are more complicated than that.

Some homeless people are children who have fled from abusive parents. Some have mental health problems. Others are addicts. We won't solve these problems by building apartment units. We have a systemic problem that needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

Yes, more social housing would be good. How about more social workers, though? How about more doctors, educators, daycare workers? I hope the councillors leave some money in the budget for the real problems.


Deal reached in truckers' strike
VANCOUVER – There is an end in sight to the bitter dispute between dump truck drivers and contractors over rising fuel costs &8211; that has stalled construction projects across the Lower Mainland.

A tentative agreement was reached early Thursday morning, ending a marathon bargaining session under the guidance of veteran labour mediator Donald Munroe, who was asked to intervene on Monday.

Police auto theft investigators have released what they call the most "chilling" bait car video they've ever seen – showing a car thief high on crystal methamphetamine and armed with a handgun.

A major earthquake off the California coast caused a short-lived tsunami scare and evacuation on Tuesday night – from the California-Mexico border to the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Diary Archives

Park 90 Feet Over Robson Street?
Vancouver Police Department - Nurturing a Culture of Corruption
Everyone's Raving About The RAV
Gurmant Grewal Adds Madcap Diversions to Canadian Politics
Vancouver - Funnest City on English Bay
Vancouver Police: Not Pubic Relations Experts
Engine 374 Pavilion - Vancouver's Best Kept Historical Secret
I Like Mine Wild!
Canadian Government's War on International Education
Canadian Government Shoots Canada In The Foot - Same Old Story


Blogger ejohn said...

Hi Ken,

Regarding the number of homeless on the streets of Vancouver, the numbers I have heard may be around 3000. I believe this is up from 1200-1500 about 5 years ago, but that's a guess, and the numbers are fluid,moving up and down with the seasons.

We may not have the people to fill 8000 beds or Single Occupancy units today, but I believe it will reach that point by the time the Olympics comes.

I remember seeing news reports that a lot of people in the downtown core were evicted from the low-rent rooms prior to Expo 86, so that landlords could refurbish and upgrade for the international tourists who flooded into the city over that summer.

Even in those days, I think Jim Green was advocating for those who were being displaced. Meanwhile, the Socred gov't was gung-ho for cleaning up and repainting long stretches of Granville Mall and other areas so as not to detract from the pretty images for tourists and the media.

Vancouver has always been largely influenced by the real estate development market, so I'm very pleased to learn from your post that Van. Coucil is taking a proactive approach to help those who otherwise don't have a lot of power.

11:44 PM  
Blogger Ken Gardner said...

Hi John,

I'm surprised that there are so many homeless people in Vancouver. 3,000 is a lot of folks. I'm not knowledgeable about the subject though, so I'll take your word for it.

I don't know if the Olympics can be compared to Expo. The 2010 Olympic Games will just last a couple of weeks. Expo 86 lasted almost six months. There aren't likely to be a lot of hotel or hostel owners converting their buildings for a two-week event.

I agree that low-cost housing should be available to people who need it. With a finite amount of money in the public purse, however, I think the city should be careful to spend it where it will be most effective. If the city of Vancouver could arrange 8,000 new hospital beds, 8,000 new long-term care beds, 8,000 new high school teachers, and 8,000 new seats in local universities, as well as 8,000 new housing units, without raising taxes, I would be very pleased. In the meantime, I think we should be careful about the magnitude of the projects we undertake.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Ken Gardner said...

By the way, John, I liked your
On the loss of Robert Wayne Bagnell.... post. I was an eye-opener.

11:42 AM  

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