Tent camp on provincial property next to the Victoria courthouse has become an Occupy-style squat

BC VIEWS: Urban drug ghettos don’t work

BC housing czar Rich Coleman spending hundreds of millions on a failed containment strategy for addicted street people

Communities around B.C. are struggling to cope with the continued influx of what politicians call “homelessness,” a term that suggests the problem can be solved merely by providing more homes.

Taxpaying citizens see the daily reality behind the soothing euphemisms – mainly transients squatting in parks and “tent cities” blighted by drug abuse and crime, and “homeless” shelters that fill up as soon as they open. They worry that the continued costly supply of supports only invites more arrivals, particularly in the gentle climate of southwestern B.C.

Their worries are well founded. In Abbotsford, a 40-bed “temporary weather shelter” made from industrial camp trailers opened in December with a $450,000 operating grant from B.C. Housing.

It was full in 10 days. Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich told city council in January that his bike officers don’t recognize most of the shelter occupants from their constant patrols of local tent camps, the largest of which has been on a city-owned roadside site since 2013.

In Maple Ridge, a “low barrier harm reduction” shelter was opened last fall in response to a growing tent camp and accompanying drug dealing, prostitution and petty crime.

One resident noted bitterly that a mayor’s task force had identified 42 unsheltered homeless people, then found places for 77 from the camp, 40 from a closing “temporary” shelter and 40 in a new shelter. “How exactly does one house 157 out of 42?” she asked.

Victoria’s camping population has gathered in an Occupy-style squat on provincial land next to the courthouse, after years of uncontrolled camping in Beacon Hill and other city parks.

The city opened a shelter in a vacant Boys and Girls Club gym, complete with new indoor tents. By the time that was full, the courthouse camp was bigger than ever, with some occupants describing how they came to town for the opportunity. One said Vancouver Police gave her a bus ticket to Victoria.

The latest plan by a local agency that runs Victoria shelters is to convert an old, empty seniors’ care home into a 101-bed permanent housing facility. This would also be “low barrier,” a euphemism for allowing drug and alcohol consumption in the rooms.

The city has come up with around $1 million for this project, in a residential area next to a school, but it still needs millions more to renovate and run it. This would presumably come from B.C. taxpayers via our social housing czar, deputy premier Rich Coleman.

Coleman pioneered this “housing first” experiment in 2007, buying up 13 century-old “single-room occupancy” hotels in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. These crumbling bedbug habitats were bought and renovated for a staggering $143 million, plus a 15-year maintenance commitment and a cop assigned to each one in an effort to contain the chaos inside.

Coleman brags endlessly about the great job he has done, but how is that actually working? A new study by Simon Fraser University researchers provides a more objective assessment.

Tracking 433 mentally ill homeless adults over 10 years, the study found the concentration of low-rent accommodation, food handouts, street outreach and medical supports resulted in “significant personal decline rather than recovery, as evidenced by their involvement in the criminal justice system, large increases in acute care and prolonged homelessness.”

The rate of people arriving in this service-intensive hellhole has tripled in the last 10 years, a finding similar to studies of concentrated services in New York, Sao Paulo and Osaka.

It’s a cautionary tale for other urban communities where this failed containment model is proposed.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Four staff members at the Okanagan Men’s Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 23, 2020. (Adult and Teen Challenge OMC photo)
Four positive COVID-19 cases at Okanagan Men’s Centre

Those affected are staff and have been in isolation since Oct. 23

Vince Schnabl looks at the view this October from the Gorge, west of Revelstoke. (Photo by Jon Wichett)
There’s 3 times more snow near Revelstoke than usual

According to 54 years of data from Parks Canada for Glacier National Park

Mail in ballot, provincial election 2020. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Mail-in-ballots coming in from Columbia River Revelstoke

In a progress report Elections BC said around 45 per cent of those issued have been returned

Mayor Gary Sulz (centre) cuts the ribbon for the new roundabout. Councillor Jackie Rhind (left) and Councillor Cody Younker (right) are on either side. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke’s newest roundabout opens on Victoria Rd.

The project took approximately six months to complete

Revelstoke Drill Hall as it looked July 19, 1970; current home of Trans-Canada Fitness. (Estelle Dickey/Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 392)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Oct. 29

Local history straight from the newspaper archives

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Homes in Summerland have been among the households in Canada to participate in radon testing. (TakeActiononRadon.ca)
Testing finds 38 per cent of Summerland homes have unsafe radon levels

Okanagan community one of 15 involved in national testing program

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Kelowna has Canada’s fastest-growing crime rate, most opioid offences per-capita

Greater Kelowna’s violent crime rate skyrocketed nearly 60 per cent

RCMP are investigating a trailer fire off Firwood Road on the Westside, discovered Oct. 27. (Google maps image)
RCMP investigate Westside trailer fire

Burned trailer discovered by RCMP Oct. 27 near Fintry

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

Myra Canyon SCARE park is located in Kelowna, British Columbia. (Photo - Twila Amato)
VIDEO: Kelowna scare park cranks up the horror

Open Oct. 29 to Oct. 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Bear sightings have been reported in a residential area in Summerland in late October. The Conservation Officer Service is urging people to take measures so bears are not drawn to the area (Black Press file photo)
Bear sightings reported from Summerland neighbourhood

Conservation Officer Service urges people not to leave garbage outside

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Most Read