Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


One of the first actions Mayor Robertson upon his return from holidays in Mexico was to put out propaganda on the homelessness front.

The Mayor's office has put out a release stating the numbers of those who were settled into his worship's shelters during our freezing snap.

The only problem is the report is short on specifics regarding how these homeless were helped.

Just opening up some decrepit warehouse without proper safety codes in place is not an answer to homelessness. Neither is having a few of your United Church friends opening up their church to warehouse people on cold damp floors and hard pews.

In this release which is posted below there is no data in areas which would give voters confidence that our City's homeless are actually being assisted in meaningful ways.

Questions for example, the propaganda (release) doesn't address are:

1) Were any homeless citizens were referred to detox or treatment facilities?

2) Were any of those sheltered provided referrals to mental health teams for follow-up observation or support?

3) Did any of our homeless get seen by professional personnel to asses for medical conditions? Many of the homeless for example have communicable diseases.

4) Did the shelters seek information from the homeless so that a life link could be established with them?

We know from the Mayor's propaganda that the homeless were herded into the shelters like sheep and the staff were placed, though no fault of their own in adult babysitting roles.

This just so the Mayor could return from his holiday after not even one month on the job to inform us how many homeless camped out in Gregor's shelters.

That Mr Mayor is truly offensive. Homeless citizens deserve better.

Jamie Lee Hamilton

Mayor announces HEAT shelter numbers from December

"No barrier" facilities provide shelter for almost 300 a night

Almost 300 homeless people found shelter every night over the past three weeks in emergency facilities opened by the Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT), Mayor Gregor Robertson said today.

More than 4,000 visits to emergency facilities were reported during the first two weeks of operation in December, providing shelter for 280 people each night.

"The facilities that HEAT helped open in the final weeks of December have provided safe, secure shelter for close to 300 people a night," Robertson said. "All three shelters were at capacity, providing refuge for some of the hardest-to-house people living on our streets."

The Homeless Emergency Action Team, or HEAT, was launched on December 9th. The 13-person team, composed of City staff, council members, health and safety professionals, and housing stakeholders, works to take immediate action in getting people off the street and into shelter this winter.

Robertson said there was a "no barrier" approach taken by HEAT shelters, which has been the key to bringing homeless people in off the street during the recent cold weather.

"Many homeless people are reluctant to come to a shelter, often because they can't bring certain personal belongings inside," said Robertson. "HEAT helped make sure that these emergency shelters allow people with pets and shopping carts. By removing barriers and putting the housing of people first, the Homeless Emergency Action Team has been able to help bring people in off the street at night."

The three facilities opened in the first phase of the HEAT shelter strategy are:

· First United Church, which through contributions of $10,000 from the City, the Province, the Streetohome Foundation, and St. Andrew's-Wesley Church, can remain open 24/7 for the next two months; and

· 1435 Granville and the Stanley New Fountain, which are funded through contributions of $500,000 from the City, the Province, and the Streetohome Foundation.

The shelters reported the following capacities for the last half of December:

· The First United Church had roughly 210 people a night since December 19th;

1 1435 Granville, operated by RainCity Housing, had a total of 429 people stay over the course of December 20th- January 1st, for an average of 33 people a night; and

· The Stanley New Fountain Hotel, operated by the Portland Hotel Society, had 549 people stay over the course of December 19th - January 2nd, with an average of 37 people a night.

Another shelter at 240 Northern Way-the third to be opened under a three-way partnership between the City, the Province, and the Streetohome Foundation-is expected to hold between 80-100 people. It will open during the week of January 12th.

"The fact that these no-barrier shelters filled up within days of opening shows how dire the situation on our streets is," said Mayor Robertson.

"The City, in partnership with the Province and other housing stakeholders, needs to continue to work towards ending homelessness - and that means we need to be creating more permanent, long-term housing. These shelters are just a small, temporary step, and there is a lot more work to be done."

Media Contact: Kevin Quinlan
Executive Assistant to the Mayor
City of Vancouver


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


This morning I received an email from Michael Meneer who was Peter Ladner's communications director during the recent municipal election. Mr Meneer had recently visited San Francisco and had a brief encounter with a homeless man there. Michael has written about his experience on his blog www.michaeljmeneer.blogspot.com

Michael suggests using 311 (proposed new communications system for the City of Vancouver and which other major cities have adopted) as one tool to be used regarding homelessness.

Michael Meneer's suggestion is germane to the discussion around homelessness since many citizens are concerned about this issue. In fact it is the number one issue on their minds. Citizens often come into contact with our homeless population and there isn't much information out there which they can access on this matter. Therefore Michael's suggestion of using the 311 system is a good one since it can be easily accessed by the public.

During our recent cold snap, communication regarding homelessness was sent out via the Extreme Weather Shelter System. The Extreme Weather Shelter operation is provincially funded and shouldn't be confused with Gregor's Shelters. They open up temporary spaces during extreme weather.

The Extreme Shelter announcements about which homeless shelters were operating was entirely based on weather patterns.

During the past week, the Extreme Shelter system sent out communiques announcing shelter closures based on weather forecasts. The problem here is that weather forecasters got it wrong about the weather. Sadly due to this mis-communication, as a result there wasn't enough shelter spaces open for our homeless. A day later the Extreme Weather system reversed their earlier decision and sent out another communique announcing shelters would be open at least until Jan 3, 2009. On yet another day, they sent out an announcement at 1:30pm informing which shelter beds were open that night.

This system of whether shelters are opened based on weather forecasting and the means of getting this information out to the public is seriously flawed and therefore the Meneer suggestion to combat homelessness is a good one. It will need to be incorporated though into a comprehensive strategy which we currently don't have.

Of course, the new Vision group at City Hall has been luke-warm to the 311 system and may quite possibly gut it.

The 311 system was the brainchild of just-released Vancouver City Manager Judy Rogers so its implementation is already on shaky ground.

As readers may recall Vision did not have confidence in Ms Rogers abilities even though Ms Rogers worked for the City for two decades serving the last ten years as City Manager.

If Vision sinks 311 this will be the second major mistake since assuming office in December.

The first mistake of course relates to our recent weather and the inadequate response in getting streets, bus stops and alleyways cleared for garbage collection.

This lack of due care really hurt our fragile population like seniors and the disabled who found it impossible to get out to medical appointments or shopping for groceries.

If Vision wants to maintain the public confidence, they will need to act more responsibly. Whether they move ahead with the 311 system will be their next big test. I hope they don't blow it.

Jamie Lee Hamilton