Monday, October 23, 2006



The squat at the closed North Star Hotel on Hastings street follows on the heels of a decision last week, made by Vancouver City Council not to enact what amounted to a useless moratorium regarding closures of SRO Shanty's. Many misguided affordable housing activists are blaming the NPA party for homelessness in Vancouver and that is wrong.

When the COPE/Vision alliance was in power, then COPE/Vision Councillor, Jim Green, enacted an SRA by-law which came into effect in 2003. This bylaw allows property owners to convert their SRO properties, however, these owners must pay $5,000.00 per room per conversion. Once a room is deemed to be SRA, it remains SRA forever, even if the building was previously condemned and had been shut down.

This latest Squat though at the North Star raises some interesting points. This property was shut down for a series of serious violations in 1999. The Squatters do not have a legal or political right to trespass on private property. Using this property to bring attention to the homeless issue, as the Squatters, who by the way, include property owners, are now doing, isn't based on smart political judgment.

As previously mentioned, the North Star Hotel was closed, due to serious livability problems at the Hotel. It is inhumane to hold people in accommodation that is unsafe and uninhabitable. Many of the SRO hotels in the Downtown Eastside have outlived their shelf life and need to be torn down. They are literally crumbling and keeping poor people in these Shanty's is wrong and unethical.

Two important questions arise regarding Uninhabitable SRO's. Firstly, should the City allow these dangerous Shanty's to remain open, and secondly and most importantly, what do you do with those unfortunate people who without other options remain holed up in these squalid like conditions?

If you listen to the misguided squatters and housing activists, you keep them where they are, as in their opinion, it is better than the streets. But again as raised in a previous blog entry by me, the question is, is it really?

And as a caring society should we accept either of these above mentioned two scenarios as humane solutions?

Now is the time for Mayor Sam Sullivan and all his council to demonstrate leadership on this critical issue. The Mayor can convene a Mayoral Summit on Chronic Homelessnessa and bring to the table, other interested parties who have a genuine concern about increased homelessness in our City. Many corporations, church groups, wealthier private citizens and government can pool their ideas and resources to find ways in the short-term to ensure our neediest citizens are housed in safe, clean, warm, affordable and humane conditions.

The Mayor in the long-term must lead the two higher levels of government back into action, on providing quality affordable housing which will ultimately enrich our poorer citizens lives. That is called leadership.

Jamie Lee Hamilton