What started as a good idea — opening emergency shelters to provide people with refuge from the recent dreadful-by-Vancouver-standards winter — has turned into the rookie mayor’s ordeal by shelter.
By keeping the shelters open beyond the emergency need, he has recreated Hastings and Main on the seawall, metres from high-priced highrises, trendy restaurants and boutiques, a preschool and a daycare.
These so-called low barrier shelters accept everyone, regardless of drug and alcohol addiction or behavioural problems, and inevitably, they have also attracted the sharks who prey on the people allegedly being helped: Drug dealers, criminals and prostitutes.
The result is a completely mayor-inspired crisis. The area residents, who don’t live in the Downtown Eastside for a reason, are on fire, issuing daily bulletins about the hair-raising plague that has ruined their neighbourhood: Drug deals, car theft, open sex, weapons offences, all sprinkled with used needles, condoms, and human excrement.
It is not a beautiful day in the neighbourhood, Mr. Robertson.
Gregor the Good’s response is to get all huffy at the residents’ NIMBY attitude. Easy for him; he lives somewhere far away, on a Happy Planet. If people were doing drug deals and relieving themselves on your front lawn, how would you feel?
As long as he keeps these shelters open, the more he’s going to learn about life in the Big City.
Maybe that’s a good thing, (but not if you have to live here). Maybe he’ll learn that homelessness is not just about having a roof over your head, although it is about that too.
Many homeless people have homeless spirits as well as homeless bodies and they need ceaseless, thankless, expensive support services to find their way home. It’s not easy; it’s not pretty, and you’re setting yourself up for failure by promising to “end homelessness” by 2015.
Clearly, this is not all Gregor Robertson’s fault. Our provincial government could take the $365 million earmarked for the roof of B.C. Place stadium (haven’t they ever heard of duct tape?) and put it into helping — really helping — the homeless.
But this is not a quick fix, as Gregor the Good is finding out. In the meantime, he can fix his political fortunes by relocating those shelters away from the False Creek Seawall, so they’re not adjacent to the daycare. Duh.