It ended with a whimper.
The last homeless shelter under the Granville Street Bridge closed quietly Wednesday, two days early, ending an overextended drama that played out nightly on the news for months.
Somehow, someone found 35 rooms for the people at the shelter, which brings up a few questions: How did those rooms suddenly become available? And if they were available all along, why weren’t they used to accommodate the homeless people from the shelters?
And was it really necessary to establish two homeless shelters in a residential neighbourhood without consulting the residents, and then keep them open against the express wishes of the residents?
I think everyone involved knows the answer to that, which means there’s really only one question left to answer: What have we learned?
Let’s take a crack at that one.
We’ve learned there may be ways to foster peaceful co-existence between those with homes and those without, but, clearly, this was not one of those ways.
The residents of False Creek have learned that you can fight city hall, but only if you have video evidence of people urinating in your front yard, selling drugs, openly carrying weapons, or having sex on the street corner.
Homeless people have learned that rooms magically appear when it becomes politically expedient for them to appear.
I’m not sure what Mayor Gregor the Good and his merry band of Vision councillors have learned. Hopefully, they’ve learned something. Anything. Like maybe it’s time to stop having visions and start seeing things as they really are.
The rest of us have learned we’ve elected a city council that, given a choice between a right way to do something and a wrong way, seem fatally compelled to choose the latter.
I hope that all of us have learned that these “emergency” warehouse-style shelters are not a way to end homelessness. They are a way to prevent homeless people from freezing to death on the coldest nights of the year, but making them permanent is a lazy and irresponsible stab at a solution.
Homelessness is not an accidental state. Every homeless person has a reason for being on the street, and throwing everyone together into a big garage is a recipe for disaster. If Gregor Robertson is serious about ending homelessness by 2015, it’s time he acknowledged the scope of the problem and outlined a detailed and practical plan to address it.
But that would defy an easy solution and cheap talk. And that’s what got him elected, isn’t it?