Last week, Chief Jim Chu and the Vancouver Police Department released a report called Project Lockstep which was highly critical of the various charities operating in the Downtown Eastside.
I have now read the report and it is fairly informative in exposing the problems down here. Of course that being no real change in the neighborhood even though millions of dollars per year is poured into the community. Project Lockstep also highlighted that there seems to be no coordination between the agencies and there is many duplication and triplication of services for the approximately 5000 residents in the DTES who are mentally ill, drug-addicted and homeless.
In the recent Province paper series called Operation Phoenix which I think is loaded with propaganda making many of the charities look good but not exposing at all the costs or numbers of boards operating down here for the same 5000 people. In short not exposing the waste.
The only enlightening article was the one which had former Mayor Philip Owen calling for the appointment of a Downtown Eastside Czar to oversee the public funds going into what seems like a bottomless pit.
Minister Rich Coleman appears to be in agreement of appointing a DTES Czar and if this is to happen, Mr Coleman must during the spring legislative session table a Bill to appoint the Executive officer.
I agree with and support Mr. Owen's call because I suspect the various funders have lost control of the public funds being funnelled into the area. Moreover, there isn't proper oversight or accounting of the hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars going into the community, which by all accounts is getting worse.
Project Lockstep has called for a Director to oversee the funds, however, they are also requesting a steering committee made up of high ranking bureaucrats with decision-making power to steer this committee.
While it would be good to have an overseer of the DTES funding, whether there needs to be a steering committee is another matter. The police recommendation sounds too much like the Vancouver Agreement which was in my opinion a failure as it never implemented the actual 3 other Pillars of the 4 Pillars. Totally missing was Education, Treatment and Enforcement.
What is needed is to style the DTES Czar as a kind of Auditor General of the area so that they have the ability to determine exactly how much is going into the community and what services are duplication of other services. Moreover, the Auditor should have legislative power with the ability to implement policies which will change things.
In terms of a steering committee, they would come up against a powerful lobby group of DTES boards of directors who do not want to see their funding cut. They would do everything in their power to retain their empires.
It has been estimated that in the DTES there are at least 700 board of directors operating and so anyone coming into the position needs to be strong and not shy away from exposing programs and services which are not working to the benefit of the public.
Preferably this newly created DTES Executive Officer position ideally would be similar to the Representative of Children and Youth which was created in response to the broken Children and Family Development Ministry which was failing to adequately protect children and youth. Ms Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was hired and given Independent legislative power and she hired a small staff which has expertise around the issues they work on. By all accounts this new body has made significant improvements in the delivery of care to vulnerable children and youth including its emphasis on First Nations and Indigenous children & youth concerns.
Jamie Lee Hamilton