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

Metro Creative Connection Photo.
Mission council decides to revert back to ‘lifetime’ fire-pit permits

District moving towards restriction, rather than prohibition, of backyard burns

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

John Redekop, with wife Doris, was the 2019 recipient of the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award from UFV. (Photo courtesy of UFV)
Nominations open until Oct. 30 for UFV’s Betty Urquhart Awards

Award recognizes ‘significant impact’ of volunteer work by an individual or group

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows’ NDP incumbent Lisa Beare, believes Reese Witherspoon – seen here in the series “The Morning Show,” could best play her on the big screen. (Special to The News Apple TV+/TNS)
Maple Ridge candidates cast themselves in dramatic comedies

ELECTION LEVITY: MLA hopefuls reveal who should play them on the silver screen

Two recent flights into Abbotsford International Airport have had recent COVID-19 exposures, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
Two flights into Abbotsford have had recent COVID-19 exposures

Centre for Disease Control asks passengers to monitor for symptoms for 14 days

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson,  BC NDP leader John Horgan and BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau. (File)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Climate change and sustainability promises from the parties

Snap election has led to a short campaign; here’s the lowdown on the platforms

Most Read