My name is Liam Turnbull, I am a Law 12 student at Windermere Secondary School. Recently, Law 12 hosted an educational campaign on homelessness which involved our school and surrounding communities. Everyone enrolled in Law 12 helped out with the campaign, which largely took place during homelessness action week*. Shortly following homelessness action week, I had the opportunity to interview Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang regarding the topic of homelessness and youth/child poverty.
Before he became a city councillor, Councillor Jang was educated at Simon Fraser and Western Ontario University. Jang has a PHD and is currently a professor of psychiatry in the faculty of medicine at UBC. Councillor Jang is also the lead on homelessness aid and prevention in city council. Currently city council is in the process of implementing the “Housing Plan” created to help the homeless of the Downtown Eastside by building housing units. There will be “14 Sites,” meaning there will be 14 different buildings that will altogether house about 1600 occupants. The municipal* and provincial governments work together to make this possible, with the City providing the actual land itself and the provincial government funding the construction. Page 5 of the Housing Plan describes the overall goal of the plan: “The intent of this Plan is to maintain 10,000 units of low-income housing in the Downtown Eastside, but to increase its quality over time. SROs* are to be replaced with new self-contained social housing for singles, and supports will be provided in a portion of the units to give stability to residents. Market housing* will be encouraged with an emphasis on affordability in rental, owner-occupied and live-work units*, and on rehabilitated heritage buildings. The total amount of market housing in the area is projected to almost double and account for approximately one-third of the total housing stock in the area (approximately 4,000 units) after 10 years.” According to Councillor Jang, Vision Vancouver’s* goal is to end homelessness by 2015, and the ‘14 sites’ is key to achieving that goal. All 14 buildings have started to be built, and 7 are complete.
Another way the City has tried to deal with homelessness was the Task Force that they had recently started For land that is owned by the city there are no property taxes* which in turn reduces operating expenses of the building. With the absence of a property tax housing will become more affordable, since the rent can be significantly lowered. In order to further aid the homeless the City provides grants to agencies which directly work to help the homeless regain normal living conditions and become employed. There generally aren’t any municipal laws that directly affect homelessness, but there is a regulation in the issue of housing which is covered by the Housing Plan: Regarding “zoning” (borders for the Downtown Eastside Official Development Plan or DEOD) any new developments above 1 FSR (Floor Space Ratio) “must contain at least 20% social housing.”
Councillor Jang has also said that the City is doing what they can to help with cleaning up Vancouver’s downtown East Side. They’re bringing in new buildings throughout downtown, along with creating mixed-income communities which the Housing Plan says is meant to “…support the provision* of goods, services and employment opportunities for local residents of all incomes.” Once again there is both provincial and municipal government involvement (the provincial government provides services, the City provides land) with the East Side. The issue of poverty in general is however, formally provincial but the City does provide some services such as cost-affordable childcare. Concerning minimum wage, which is a provincial matter, the City of Vancouver has shown where it stands on the issue. As a City Councillor, Kerry Jang wants the minimum wage in BC to be increased, as does City Council. The Council had passed a resolution to increase the BC minimum wage, i.e. they’re lobbying the provincial government.
I also asked Councillor Jang, from the opinion of a professor of psychiatry, if he believed that if there was less mental illness among those without homes and who are impoverished, that there would be less homelessness altogether. Jang said that this is not necessarily the case, and that plenty of people who are mentally ill still have homes. Also, not everyone who is homeless is mentally ill either; addictions and head injuries are among other causes, along with obviously poverty. However, among homelessness cases, Councillor Jang says that poverty usually comes hand in hand with another cause, such as having mental illness, or being unable to work for various reasons. One will rarely find someone living on the streets and being labelled as homeless, without having some problem in addition to just poverty. If someone is having only poverty issues, they will usually find the help they need. Head injuries are a major cause of homelessness, according to Councillor Jang, especially involving youth poverty. For example, once a youth leaves foster care, he or she may be unaware of a head injury. The person may then not know how to take care of themselves properly, and may become homeless. Lastly, I asked Councillor Jang how Vancouver fares in regard to homelessness statistics compared to other cities in Canada, and in the entire world. Jang stated that every city is different, and that we cannot draw direct relations.
Vancouver’s homelessness population is particularly large and every year there has been a homeless count to compile approximate data. Mayor Gregor Robertson commented on this year’s homeless count: “The 2012 Homeless Count confirms that we’ve made strong progress in the last four years to tackle homelessness and that our low-barrier shelters have been incredibly effective, but much work remains to confront the challenge…” Below is a chart showing the results of the last three years’ homelessness counts:
1,602 homeless counted in 2012, compared to 1,715 in 2010
In relation to the homelessness counts, it seems as though the problem is steadily being fixed. However, like Mayor Robertson said, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. With the harsh climate that Vancouver has, and the significance of the homelessness situation, it’s especially important to end homelessness in the heart of Vancouver.
I would like to thank Councillor Jang for generously lending his time to do this interview. It was particularly helpful that Councillor Jang is not only the lead on homelessness in city council, but that he is a Windermere alumni himself.
By Liam Turnbull
On October 12th, the last day of Homelessness Action Week, we had the honour of having Lauren Gill (a 2011 Vancouver City Council Candidate) at our school to present about homelessness. Lauren Gill had her own fair share of struggles with addictions as a youth and when she got clean at the age of 17, she continued to help those who were unfortunate enough to be in a situation similar to her own. The issue of homelessness and addiction is extremely close to her heart. Her presentation was nothing short of eye-opening, revealing the reality of single resident occupancy homes (SROs), temporary structure laws, and The Assisted to Shelter Act.
One of the interesting by-laws she covered was Street & Traffic By-Law 2849 Sec. 71.1. This law states that “No structures (tents or other shelters) permitted in this area or on any other city street, sidewalk or boulevard.” This law sounds fair enough right? It actually isn’t fair at all, especially towards homeless people. The by-law essentially prevents homeless people from providing shelter for themselves in the form of tents. Vancouver simply does not have enough shelter space for the 3,000 homeless people residing here. Those who can’t find shelter space are left outside, which creates a situation where the city can’t shelter the homeless and the homeless are unable to shelter themselves.
SROs are the greater step up to shelters and living on the streets. Much like any other home in metro Vancouver it has the basic necessities. Things like sinks, toilets, and showers are shared by up to 100 people. There are leaks that do not get repaired for months and odours that constantly plague the SRO residents. Not to mention that many of the doors are incapable of locking, depriving the residents of their basic rights to privacy. Even though it provides a physical roof above the heads of its residents, SROs in their current state are not much better than the streets. Reports have said that the Canadian Government will spend $87.3 million in construction and implementation costs. On top of all this, the Canadian Government has promised an additional funding over a 15-year period.
The Assistance to Shelter Act became law on November 26, 2009, which gives local police and RCMP the ability to assist homeless individuals to a shelter during extreme weather. Yet the individual can decide if one can stay in the shelter or not. The declaration of “extreme” weather conditions is called by a community representative, making the term “ extreme weather” depend on the opinion of the representative. Another problem with this act is that it allows police to force homeless people into shelters, when shelters do not have the capacity for such numbers. This act is unlike the Olympic Kidnapping Act, the police have the power to force the homelessness people into shelters.
Getting information from a front-line homelessness activist and housing worker is as real as it gets. This evidence proves that the laws or complexities made to help the weakest members of society aren’t all what they are cut out to be. SROs put people in unsanitary conditions with minimal privacy, By-laws prevent homeless people from being able to shelter themselves when the city can’t, and homeless people can be forced against their will into shelters during objectively “extreme” weather conditions when Vancouver shelters simply do not have the capacity. We can fix these problems by exposing the shortcomings of our current homelessness strategy by continuing to learn about homelessness, supporting shelters, and letting the city know that there is need for reform.
By Ryan Cheung, Stephanie Nguyen, and Lucas Chan
For 72 years, Union Gospel Mission has been providing the homeless with food and shelter. In those days the UGM vehicle would collect food donations from Woodward’s food department and local bakeries. Today, they serve over 260,000 meals each year to Vancouver’s needy. They have 9 locations in Greater Vancouver and Mission, which can house hundreds of people. The Hastings location alone has 72 beds and 64 recovery suites.
Union Gospel Mission provides abstinence-based housing, meaning that anyone staying in one of their shelters must refrain from the usage of drugs and alcohol during the duration of their stay. They also provide addiction treatment centres to help people living with drug and alcohol addictions.
On October 24th, the Windermere Law 12 class hosted Kari and Bonny from UGM. During a lunchtime presentation, they talked to a group of Windermere students about their experiences with homelessness in the Downtown Eastside. They provided us with the opportunity to see the homeless population in the Downtown Eastside in a whole new light. Instead of dangerous addicts, we now see a group of vulnerable people with nothing left to lose in life.
This year the Vancouver Foundation found that the biggest community issue in Vancouver is the lack of connection between Vancouverites. However, this is not the case in the Downtown Eastside. It is almost the opposite. Many living there are usually eager to share their stories and take the time to listen to yours. They are already at one of the lowest points in their lives and have given up the pride that most of us hang on to. Suffice to say, there are a lot of decent people living in the area.
Contrary to popular belief, many of Vancouver’s homeless are not living on the streets. As Vancouver’s by-laws prohibit structures such as tents in public spaces, many poverty stricken Vancouverites are forced into single room occupancies. These are small rooms with beds and communal bathrooms that are available for people with nowhere else to go and with very little money to rent. This may seem like a good alternative to living on the streets, but many of these single room occupancies are old run down hotels with mold and cockroach infested rooms. They are unsafe; many are breeding grounds for drug addictions and crime. But for many low income individuals, this is the option.
There are over 2000 homeless men, women and youth in Vancouver alone and many suffer from addictions. Generally, people view the homeless population as society’s burden, unable to contribute in any way. This is not at all true. None of them want to be addicted. The majority came from troubled backgrounds, turned to drugs, and consequently became addicted. Most would do anything for a second chance. Union Gospel Mission provides that chance and more often than not, the alumni from their rehabilitation programs are able to come through and create better futures for themselves. Everyone has done something they regret at least once and we can all agree that a helping hand is just what we need to fix the mistake.
We can be that helping hand for these people. It can be as simple as donating your lunch money or even spending an afternoon helping out at a soup kitchen with friends. It can be as ambitious as organizing a food drive or holding a fundraiser. No contribution is too big or too small. So we urge you to keep an open mind and an open heart. Together, we can be the generation that ends homelessness.
By An Ngyuen and Cinzia Barucci
Kerry Jang is currently a city councillor in the city of Vancouver, first elected in 2008. He also currently serves as the director in the Greater Vancouver Regional District Board. Kerry Jang was born and raised in Vancouver. He attended Renfrew Elementary School and Windermere Secondary when he was younger.
He currently is also one of the three elected members on the Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT), and its main purpose is to assist homeless people during an extremely cold winter.
I had the privilege of getting a chance to interview Kerry Jang, to learn about what the city is doing to battle the issue of homelessness.
“What is your take on the definition of homelessness?” – Wilson
“Well homelessness refers to a spectrum of conditions. So for me, and how we define it at the city, it ranges from those who are living on the street all the way to those who are under housed. So this means people who are couch surfing, people who are living in really run down places because there is nowhere else to live, and people who are living in their cars for example. So people who are absolutely on the street to all the way up to those who are under housed.” – Kerry
“What barriers do homeless people face when finding homes, jobs and stability?” – Wilson
“Well there are a number of things that they face really. It really depends on which group of homeless people you are referring to. So, for example, if it is a street homeless person, somebody that has been on the street for many years, even getting into a shelter is a barrier For instance, the shelters aren’t available, they only open certain hours. And, if they are open, you have to line up to get in. They get in by 7 o’clock in the evening, and they have to leave by 6 in the morning, or something like that. We’ve open up shelters in the city that have actually broke down those barriers, so that people can stay there 24/7. We allow things like pets and their shopping carts in. It is a safe place to store their stuff because most shelters don’t provide that, but the city ones do. Therefore, we thought that this was very successful.” – Kerry
“That ties into my next question quite well. The city has pledged to end street homelessness by the year 2015…” – Wilson
“That was the mayors pledge, and that was the goal we set. And so we’d done it by not only building shelters, but as part of our plan. We are creating 1300 units of affordable housing on 14 sites that are city land. So currently 7 of those sites are open now. And if you go to www.vancouver.ca/housing you can find our homelessness and housing plan with all the targets and where we are in our targets in the reports.” – Kerry
“So, in your opinion, do you think that city is meeting its planned goals at this point in time?” – Wilson
“Well certainly it’s always difficult because things change. And we have reduced street homelessness by about 60% since 2008, and in fact we reduced it by 82% up until last winter when the province did not fund shelter beds for us. But certainly when looking in our yearly counts, we have it plateauing. So there is no growth of absolute homelessness in the city of Vancouver, we’ve kind of stemmed the tide. And we have to drill down to actually reduce it. So that is our next big challenge over the next few years. Create more units of housing, like I’ve said, we have 14 sites roughly providing 1300 units. Half of those are open now, and the rest are currently under construction, and that should take a big bite out of the chunk of what is left to do.” – Kerry
“Okay, but I have heard that the provincial government is only committing money for affordable social housing until the year 2014. Have there been any talks between the city and the province on creating a housing strategy beyond 2014?” – Wilson
“Were always talking with the province, and, certainly part of our task as the city is to convince the province that we need it beyond a certain amount of time. And that is certainly why we collect a lot of data. We do have a very data based approach where we do annual counts to prove why the needs are there. And it has been successful. And you know, the province is under severe funding constraints as well. They have to provide housing for the entire province, and not just the city of Vancouver. So, there are times where are disagreements, but that is normal, that’s politics.” – Kerry
“So what are your opinions on a larger plan? Like implementing a national housing strategy?” – Wilson
“Well there isn’t one currently and that is the problem. The Harper government hasn’t done anything on that front for years. They got out of housing, and they have no intention of going back in as far as I can tell. We absolutely need a federal housing plan, and I know that the NDP has been championing this for some time. The Harper government is completely disinterested in housing. That is the main problem.” – Kerry
“So does the city have programs to help people get off the street and find social housing?” – Wilson
“All the time, absolutely. The city actually does a lot of the work on the street. We have a lot of homeless outreach coordinators, and planners, and what not. And that’s what they do, and that’s their job. They plan and do outreach to connect with the homeless to get them off the streets.” – Kerry
“Lets say the person gets into a social housing unit. Does the city have anything to help the person now get training and experience for employment?” – Wilson
“Well, this is where we do have some of that. Well this is where the partnerships with the provinces come in. It’s because the city’s power is in land use. So what we do is to try to rezone land to allow the creation of housing or things like that. But the actual building, running, and programs is of provincial responsibility.” – Kerry
“And one final question for today. It is more about you and your party. Do you think that you and your party has done enough on the issue of homelessness since being in power?” – Wilson
“Yes. Definitely. We have done a lot, and there is a lot more work to be done. We are not resting on our morals. If you look in the homeless counts in the City of Vancouver since 2002, we’ve came into power in 2008, you will see a marginal decline in police calls and everything. In fact, the city report is on the website at www.vancouver.ca/housing . You should check it out.” – Kerry
“That ends it, were done. I want to thank you for your time today. It meant a lot!” – Wilson
“Hey, Windermere rules man. I gotta support my own! Feel free to call if you need me again. Take care!” – Kerry
By Wilson Wu
Throughout many years, homelessness has been an ongoing problem. Within only the last decade, it cost the whole world collectively $50 billion dollars. Studies have shown that in the long run, focusing on the prevention of homelessness, instead of the criminalization of homelessness is a more effective and inexpensive strategy.
The right thing to do is to centre our attention on the prevention of homelessness. It was reported that in 2007, $4.5 to 6 billion dollars was spent solely on homelessness in Canada. This is greater than the amount used for annual debt reduction (3.1billion) or international development (4.1 billion). Will ending homelessness save money? It is clear that homelessness is quite expensive. However, providing people with housing aid and the necessary support outlets instead of slamming them behind bars is considerably more cost effective. In doing these things, money can be saved and better social outcomes achieved.
Another factor that contributes to this problem is the increase in health care expenses. A high demand for health services is required because of homelessness rendering people more vulnerable to diseases. . Living on the streets leaves one more susceptible to contagious diseases and malnutrition, increasing their chances of developing chronic depression and other serious mental illnesses by 30%. The need for professional treatment and the accommodation of frequent hospitalizations is why the cost of health care has been on the incline..
It is imperative to accentuate the prevention of homelessness instead of criminalizing panhandlers and spending massive sums for emergency services. Finding and addressing the root cause rather than attempting to fix the effects would provide better results. The solution is to get the homeless of the streets through an affordable housing strategy. Research has shown that by providing support and stable housing for individuals in financial trouble, the amount of money saved is an estimate of $350,000 per person. By housing people, and providing support and financial aid they are able to improve their health and lifestyle which then means Canada can save more.
It is unbelievable that a first world country like Canada, with its abundant amount of resources, has citizens living in third world conditions. It is the simple truth that the longer we leave homelessness a major problem in Canada, the more money it will cost us in the long run.
By Mandy Cen, Anita Su, Ethan Trinh
A giant thank you to those who supported the Law 12 campaigns promoting mental health and homelessness awareness. The campaigns could not have been a success without all of you! Various projects hosted by the block 2-1 Law class include volunteering at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House’s Morningstar Breakfast Program, holding a debate, hosting speakers, and running a Clothing Drive with all donations eventually given to Walden House. Thank you again to everyone in the Law 12 classes for putting in so much effort and also a thank you throughout the school for helping the events succeed!
By Hannah Gee
Your government takes a lot of criticism from the mainstream media for being supporters of big business, and being less concerned with the plight of homeless Canadians. How do you respond to these criticisms?
This is an unfair criticism. Our government has made larger federal transfers to provinces who in turn are responsible for providing health care, education and housing among other social services to Canadians. This federal provincial partnership is one that is based on the principle that due to distinct regional differences and needs, the provinces are best positioned to deliver such services to the people in need. As for keeping taxes low – not just for businesses but for families – is another principle which I support to foster a positive environment for businesses to thrive in order to keep the economy robust and growing. If businesses are healthy, more people are working and benefiting the broader society.The federal transfers do not specify where money should be spent – the provinces and territories make those decisions, but I am aware that through CMHC and other service providers that work with the homeless, there are very effective programs that specifically address the homelessness, poverty and housing issues. I sit on a Senate Committee which recently undertook a long-term study that allowed us to see best practices in various regions and assess what is being done in one region that could be transportable/transferred to other regions. There are several such best practices in BC which I had the chance to study and assess for its effectiveness. The recommendations were given to the respective Ministers and officials at both the federal and provincial levels for consideration. There is always room for improvement, and the federal government has a role to play.
What is your government’s current policy in regards to homelessness?
As I answered above, the role of the federal government is to ensure federal transfers are made to the provinces in a timely and responsible manner. There are some additional federal funding programs that support specific projects or services that are for tackling homelessness or providing essential services to those who are homeless. I am aware that each region has its own homelessness task force or council that bring together various stakeholders and thought leaders to strategize about how best to tackle homelessness in their region. Again, the role of the federal government is largely ensuring the transfer of federal funding to provinces and territories.
How much money does the Federal Government provide the Provincial Government, in order to address homelessness issues? Has this number increased or decreased over the past few years?
In 2011-12, the Government of British Columbia received $5.3 billion in major transfers – an increase of $731 million since 2005-06. Within that total, the Canada social transfer has also increased over the years ($1.52 billion in 2011-12 to $1.58 billion in 2012-13)
Does the Federal Government take into account that the mild climate of the West Coast attracts a great portion of Canada’s homeless population?
There is an equation that is used to calculate the amount that BC received compared to Alberta or other regions. It would be difficult for the federal government to precisely predict (then adjust) transfer payments based on numbers that aren’t predictable. This would be difficult to monitor and calculate, but this is an interesting question to ask federal officials to factor in.
Is this a factor in the amount of money, we as a Province, receive from the Federal Government? Is there any special consideration given to the fact that the West Coast has a significantly large homeless population due to our climate?
I would guess that it isn’t factored in. I’m not certain, but population and economic status (have-not vs have provinces based on other revenue sources) are used to calculate the federal transfer. As a comparison to BC, in 2011-12, the Government of Alberta received $3.4 billion in major transfers (an increase of $1.2 billion since 2005-06).
Do you think that B.C.’s minimum wage, of $10.25 per hour, should be increased to more accurately reflect the high cost of living on the West Coast, as opposed to the rest of Canada.
On a personal level, I see this debate of higher minimum wages from both sides. As a student or working parent, trying to make ends meet, of course I support higher wages. But for the employer, especially those that have small businesses where their profit margin is very low or minimal, even a small wage increase means their bottom line will be directly impacted. If employers can’t afford to pay the minimum wages, will they hire less people? Will that increase the unemployment rate? I’m not an employer of a small business nor am I a minimum wage earner, so that is why I see both sides of the debate and feel as though both sides are justified in their position.
I understand that you’re a member of the “Social Affairs, Science, and Technology Committee.” What recommendations has your committee made in regards to homelessness in Canada?
“In from the margins” was quite a substantive two-year cross country report that made all sorts of recommendations. An executive summary of the report can be viewed online at http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/402/citi/subsite-dec09/execsum-e.htm . I learned much and realized that across Canada, there are caring staff and volunteers who are doing their best to lift people out of poverty and provide essential services to the most vulnerable of our society. I am humbled by their dedication and love of humanity.
How do you feel that your government’s new mortgage regulations have helped avoid more foreclosures, and thus more homeless Canadians?
I am proud of Canada for many reasons, including the fact that our banking system is the soundest in the world, and that in spite of the world economic turmoil (especially down in the United States), Canada has weathered the economic storm better than any other G8 country. However, as our Prime Minister and other Government officials have said many times, we must still be very vigilant and cautious as our recovery is still tenuous and the world’s economic struggles are still continuing and in many parts of the world, getting worse, not better. The Government must, therefore, continue to be fiscally prudent and act in the best interest of Canadians.
How will the results generated by your committee, in regards to homelessness, be put to practical use in the near future?
The report was sent to the federal and provincial/territorial leaders and officials that oversee homelessness, as well as to all key stakeholders that were interviewed or considered for the study.
Will your committee also be considering the recommendations made in Bill C – 400, a private member’s bill, which aims to secure, adequate, accessible, and affordable housing for low income Canadians? Which features of Bill C-400 are most likely to get traction?
It’s a private member’s bill which is still in the House, so I have not had a chance to examine it at this stage. I am certain it will be robustly debated if it reaches the Senate floor, so I will reserve my comments after I’ve had a chance to study the Bill.
As a resident of B.C., do you feel that enough is being done to support the low income inhabitants of our Province? Where do you think emphasis should be placed over the next 5 years?
As a member of the SAST committee and having had the opportunity to witness several programs and interview leaders of communities that work with the homeless, I am able to say with confidence that we are doing a lot in BC. Is it enough to solve the homelessness issue completely? Not completely, but I know there are passionate individuals, effective organizations and a web of services that are available in BC for the homeless and the disenfranchised of our province. It will be an on-going challenge.
One of the areas that I believe we must focus on is strengthening the mental health services. Many of the homeless suffer from mental health, and mental health can lead to homelessness – the two are inter-connected and must be part of the homelessness strategy.
By Kiana Martin
Law 12 students from Windermere were assigned different tasks for the homelessness and mental illness awareness and action week. Our task was to interview a politician, and we were fortunate to get in touch with Don Davies. We scheduled an interview with him after school and had an on-going discussion upon the topic, homelessness and mental illness in Vancouver.
Don is from the NDP party and is a parliament member representing Vancouver, Kingsway. Although it was a long interview, we were glad that we had a chance to talk to him about some of the major issues in Vancouver. On October 10th, we got the opportunity to interview Don Davies on his view of mental illness and homelessness.
Lisa: Over the past years, homelessness in Downtown East side has been increasing continuingly. Do you think the government should look into this situation? Because right now, as of what I know, there isn’t a lot of funding for homelessness and because of that, they can’t even seek the chance for a change in their lives.
Don: Absolutely, I think the government should look into this. I think it requires absolute conservative effort by all three levels of government: the city, the provinces, and the federal government. I think the problem is that all three levels of government have not been co-operating in a meaningful way to tackle the problems of homelessness but also housing generally. The most extreme examples of housing prices are homelessness, people that are actually living on the street. About 40% of the people living around the lower mainland are precariously housed; so they have housing right now, but they don’t have a real secure housing situation. And so all 3 levels of government should be putting a lot more effort to deal with housing.
Donna: What are some laws that correspond nationally concerning mental illness?
Don: The health sector, which includes mental health falls under the provinces. But the federal government can play a leadership role in many ways: One way is that they can make sure that the funding of the federal government is targeted to provinces who will put it into areas of mental health. Direct role: Statistics show that 80% of prisoners in the federal prison have some type of mental illness. Federal government can play its role by making sure the prisoners are appropriately diagnosed, treated, rehabilitation and long term planning.
Lisa: This question is referring to the past but I thought it would be worthwhile to bring this topic up. During the 2010 Olympics, homeless people have been removed from the streets and have been provided “Temporary” homes. Do you think it is right to do so? Is it fair for homeless people who are part of our society to be removed from the streets and give the world a false image of Vancouver during the games?
Don: No, I mean I think what happened was when Canada was welcoming the world for our country, wanted understandably want to show the world that Canada was a well-functioning society. It’s kind of like cleaning your house before the guest leaves kind of thing. But, it strikes me as a responsible reason because once the Olympics was over, we went back to showing us a “not caring” society. The society that we live in should be measured by the way we treat the people. You can measure the way how we treat children, elderly people, and the most Venerable. I think it this short-term action is not acceptable.
Donna: What influenced you to introduce the bill c-351 (The Canadian Autism Day Act)?
Don: Well, I have three children. My youngest daughter is a special needs child. Ever since she was a baby, we’ve been involved in trying to be sensitive to the challenges that people with special needs face. Since I have that interest, it has struck me that we need to bring more focus and attention to people that have special needs. I focused on autism, because it seems to be the most common.
Lisa: As a parliament member representing Vancouver Kingsway, do you intend to look into this topic or to pass new bills or funding for these homeless people?
Don: Um…Maybe. When you are a MP you can draft any private member bills on anything you want. As the NDP is the opposition, we are trying to become the next government. We need to focus our efforts on specific things and in case you don’t know, the housing critic for our party would be the person drafting the policy for housing. My issue right now is international trade so I’m focusing on international trade issues. You may have heard about Libby Davies next door here, she drafted a private members bill called international housing strategy. That was because Canada was the ONLY country of the G8 that did not have a national housing strategy with the federal government. The national government actually has a plan for how we can ensure that every citizen in the country have affordable, secure, safe, decent housing. And so my colleague Libby Davies drafted that bill in which I support 100%. I think that our party, the NDP, will continue pushing for the national housing strategy. So I don’t really need to draft a bill, the work has already been done.
Donna: In your personal aspect, what is the relation between homelessness and mental illness?
Don: That’s a great question! There are a lot of reasons. One is that it’s an environmental cause. From family units, the experiences that occurred to them that don’t happen to normal folks. There could be a biological and genetic aspect to it. Like, why do some of us have diabetes and others don’t? or, why do some have cancer and others don’t? It’s not a fault of their own. It happens through circumstances that they can’t control.
Lisa: Little Mountain is one of Canada’s oldest social housing project. Currently, it has been decided that they will take out Little Mountain houses and replace them with condos. Do you think it is fair for seniors to lose their homes and move to new surroundings? Even more, do you think the city has the right to do so?
Don: Boy, you’ve done your research. Good job and you struck it right to my heart and I believe passionately in Little Mountain. Little mountain was a site that the Federal government had purchased in 1952 and at that time, it’s between main street and 33rd and 15 acres. That’s one of the largest pieces of land that was undeveloped in Vancouver. The federal government bought it from a local landowners at the time and they used it to build 240 units for 240 families there. What happen was that about 5 years ago, the Federal government transferred that land to the province and then the province turned around and they wanted to sell it to a private developer who wants to put up condos; about 15000s units of condos to replace the 240 units and plus 10 for first nations. What I say is, that is absolutely the wrong way to go. This is public land, and it should stay as public, and should not be sold. Its like Stanley Park, would you sell Stanley Park? I wouldn’t sell Stanley Park it’s public land. So I say, the government should keep that land, and replacing 240 units in 2012 is lame. You know, if we can build 240 units in 1963, if you just replaced those units in 2012, that’s actually a net loss of housing. If you think of how much bigger we’ve grown, you have to take the 240 units and build like a thousand units of social housing. Just to have the same number of housing in the rate of population compared to in 1963. I think the proposal that the province is proposing represents a sell of public land that is very misguiding and the proposal to not build a lot more of social housing is a real waste of opportunity. I have been fighting for the last 4 years, and I will continue to fight that we should be building thousands of units of housing for low income people, for seniors, for disabled. Affordable market: People like you, would want to buy some place one day, so, there are models of housing. We can build nice town houses and we can sell them to people at cheap prices, making one condition that if you ever sell it yourself, you have to sell it to someone else who has just moderate or low income, and you can’t sell it for more than the rate of inflation. We can have low affordable rental; the same type of opportunity we have at Little Mountain. I hope that we don’t take it down. It’s hard to see where another affordable housing will come.
Donna: In your opinion, please explain the relationship between homelessness and mental illness.
Don: I think there is a strong link. But not all homeless people are mentally ill, but a lot are. I think that there is a vicious cycle. When you start having mental issues, often your difficulty can affect your school or job, when you lose the job, you lose the income, resulting in the loss of your house. You can have problems with your family, because you have difficulty relating. And so often you see people whose only difficulty is that they suffer from the mental illness, will be homeless. Sometimes they might not be able to pay for their medications. So I think the number one cause of homelessness is mental illness, which by the way includes addiction. Addiction is not a character defect; it is recognized in the medical literature as a mental illness.
Lisa: Statistics have proved that housing prices in Vancouver have been increasing rapidly. Do you think that could be a leading cause to homelessness and mental illness in Vancouver?
Don: Well yeah, for sure. I mean, I bought my current house 12 years ago, but I can’t buy my own house today. If I was 23, or 30, starting my life here, I wouldn’t be able to afford a house here. The house prices in Vancouver have skyrocketed. The mean income in Vancouver is 51,000 dollars but the average housing price in Vancouver is about 80,000 dollars. That means, half that half of the people living in Kingsway is making less than 51,000 dollars, which means that they could not buy houses in Vancouver. So the result is that, housing is becoming out of reach and that people would become homeless and insecure. Every Canadian in this society deserves to be living in a secure housing but when we, as a society cannot create this, something is wrong.
Donna: Has the government come up with a solution to reduce Vancouver’s increasing housing prices? What would you do to reduce the housing prices?
Don: In short answer, no. I think it’s because they are not listening. Now, Little Mountain has 15 acres. So, I would build 1000 units of housing there. 500 town houses (3 or 4 bedroom, fireplace, super environmental standards), and 500 apartments owned by the government. They will rent the houses to people with an affordable price. I’d say for the town houses, $1400 a month. So, that any family making $40,000 to $50,000 a year, can afford the houses. I have done the calculations on this. It would cost the government 400 million dollars to build and if they rent it out, the tenants have to pay for 16 years.
Lisa: I heard that there is a place in Downtown, an insite, where people can go there for safe injections. Do you think this will just promote drug use or will it have a good cause towards the society?
Don: That’s a difficult issue, and um, I understand and respect all the different perspectives. I don’t think there is an overwhelming correct answer, but based on the evidence, I take the emotion of it and look at the evidence. The evidence tells us that if addicts have access to supply of clean sanitary needles, then they will reduce the hepatitis, HIV, and the spread of infection. You also help with over-dose deaths. If there is a place that they can go to, nobody wants to see anyone using drugs, nobody likes to see anybody using hypothermic needles; it’s not healthy. So the question to ask is, that addict in downtown Eastside will be shooting up somewhere, so if they are going to be shooting up in an alley behind the dumpster, would they be using shared needle? Is that the policy you want to pursue or do you want a place where they can come and get a new needle and have access to a nurse? The insite in downtown Eastside has kept statistics, If you think about it, when was the last time you’ve heard about overdose death in the last 2-3 years? They have pretty much eliminated over-dose death. The other thing is if those people for a brief moment choose to ask for assistance with addiction, there is that possibility there and what I’ve heard is that there is some of that going on. So, it stops the spread of disease, saves lives, and gives the opportunity to people who want help for their addictions. This strikes me as pretty powerful evidence that this is a good thing. And by the way, I don’t think that it promotes use of drugs. I don’t think anyone would say, ‘you know what? I’m going to go down town Eastside to shoot up tonight because I get free needles. I don’t think anybody would do that. I think people, who are using drugs, will use it anyway. Also, the hepatitis and HIV doesn’t just stay in the downtown Eastside, the diseases spreads. That could be harm to the general society.
Donna: Section 7 in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security. So isn’t the increase in homelessness violating the law?
Don: This is a great philosophical question. So philosophically yes, but legally no. I think legally that argument will not prevail. But personally, yes. Housing, food and clothing is a right, not a privilege. We should, as a society, make sure everybody has that.
Lisa: I’m sure most Canadians know that Vancouver is the most expensive place to live regarding to its low minimum wage and high housing prices. Do you think there will be any changes to the economic boom or do you think there is anything the government could do to fix this problem?
Don: Yes, In the 1960′s the minimum wages are the same as today, adjusted as inflation. Over the last 30 years, with the right wing economics, the government cutting taxes for the wealthy and co-operations, so that the government does not have enough money has resulted in greater income inequality. Our minimum wage is way below our poverty line.
Donna: I would like to ask you about bill c-304. I read that this bill suggests giving affordable housing to the homeless. How does this bill represent a fundamental shift to Canada’s culture?
Don: It has a very fundamental shift. This is the bill that my colleague, Libby Davies has drafted. Again, we have no federal housing policy, and this would give us a federal housing policy. Right now, the federal government doesn’t really contribute any money to housing. If you talk to MLAs or city councilors, they will complain bitterly, that they can’t deal with these themselves, they need the federal government. I think the federal government collects 60 cents out of every dollar, and the city only gets 7 cents. It would be a remarkable shift, because Canada used to have a housing policy. Brian Mulroney, the conservative prime minister in 1992 ended Canada’s housing policy. Liberals promised 6 times over the years, that if they were elected, they would bring it back, they didn’t. So we haven’t had a helping hand from the federal government in creating affordable housing since 1992.
Lisa: After doing some research, I know that you are the vice chair for CIMM, do you think the increase of new immigrants investing in Canadian properties could possibly cause homelessness?
Don: I haven’t seen enough data to really say for sure. Some people think so. I think it’s a general principle that Vancouver is very expensive and any factor that is driving the prices, we should think about that.
Donna: Do you believe that the federal government will be able to satisfy at least half of the population of homeless people? If so, how?
Don: We could and we should. But I don’t the harper government will. They have no interest in this, whatsoever. I’m a big believer in hope and optimism, like our leader Jack Layton. I don’t want to be criticizing and opposing. I also want to be proposing things. So we could, but it just takes money and political desire to do so.
Lisa: I know that you’ve introduced bill C-351, which is Canadian Autism Day Act. On top of paying for medical fees, these citizens have to pay for their expensive housing. What do you think we should do about that?
Don: Fix it. If it’s wrong, fix it.
Donna: What do you suggest for teenagers, in aiding people who have mental illness and are homeless?
Don: Teenagers can look for good volunteer opportunities in organizations who focus on those areas. Neighbor hood houses do very good things for homeless people. For example, their morning star program, have homeless count. So contact your neighborhood houses and they can find you something to do, to help your community.
Lisa: Why we, as a society, should have a conscience about homeless people?
Don: It’s not that homeless people are lazy, or has done something wrong. I would guess that 99% of the times these people have been in situations outside of their control that caused them to be homeless, which most of us haven’t. So, it’s our responsibility as a society to care. You know, if you ask me what kind of Canada I want to live in, I want to live in a place where everyone, leaving out no one, has enough food to eat, a place they can call home, clothed and has a chance to be a productive member of society.
Donna: Do you have any memories that are close to your heart, about interacting with the homeless?
Don: My first memory that comes to my mind is when I was 14 years old. I was with my older sister. She is the most compassionate and quite person I know. We were going to a movie. It was October, so it was very cold. I was yapping away beside her. Then I noticed that she wasn’t there. I saw that she was half a block back; she had those sorts of lumberjack jackets (she was hipper than I was). She took it off and put it over a man who was on the floor shivering. Then she walked right past me without saying a word. This memory is always with me, because that jacket meant nothing to her, but meant everything to that man. I think that everybody should have an act of concern towards those who has nothing, because often, we tend to look the other way.
Donna and Lisa: Thank you so much for your time!
Don: Oh, you are welcome!
By Donna Abraham and Lisa Liang
Homelessness is a large concern globally and is a very hard problem to solve. There are many forms of homelessness whether it is the homeless on the streets or people who are couch surfing. Homelessness has been present for a very long time and there have been many strategies used to reduce the amount of homeless but there is still no effective way to eradicate homelessness. There are many ways in which people may become homeless in such an advanced country like Canada. The reason that people have a low income which does not accommodate the high cost of housing is a much generalized reason for homelessness. There are many other unknown factors like conflict in relationships and addictions also.
Law 12 has decided to raise awareness about homelessness and contribute in their own way during homelessness action week. I myself decided to receive further insight on homelessness in Canada which is why I chose to interview Shane Simpson, MLA of Vancouver Hastings, for a politician’s point of view about this.
Shane of the BC NDP feels that there should be no excuse for being homeless in a country like Canada. He feels that if the federal government is able to become a partner in housing with the provincial government then it may help slightly in reducing the amount of homeless. His main goal when dealing with homelessness is poverty reduction which will help in the reduction of the homeless. He says that although poverty is the main cause of homelessness, other factors like mental illness and addictions compound the problems together leading into deeper homelessness.
In terms of the homeless that are living with relatives and in shelters, the size of their groups are up to two or three times larger. However, he feels that even though this group is much larger they are able to cope with homelessness due to couch surfing. In order to subdue homelessness, more housing needs to be built, which will need a lot of money to be invested. He says that it is a municipal and provincial responsibility for the housing money used. His thoughts on the rate of homelessness now compared to about a decade ago are that it is still relatively the same.
Due to the fact that there is more awareness and programs available now people would think that the rate would go down, but addiction issues have escalated as well because there is much more variety and accessibility now. When comparing the rates of areas like Vancouver, Richmond, and Burnaby, for example, they are quite close. He says that there is much more attention in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver just because it is a bigger city in general, but if rates of homelessness were calculated by percentage of the population, then it is visible that this is a widespread problem.
There haven’t been too many laws recently regarding homelessness like vagrancy laws and proclamations, so there isn’t much power to take action in terms of laws. The NDP feel that Bill C-304 should have been passed and that the Conservative government is responsible. People who are disabled are also a group who need help as they face a larger variety of challenges than other homeless. A challenge for the homeless is that if they have other problems like a drug addiction then it affects their chances in finding opportunities for themselves. He feels that although there are many helpful programs out there, they don’t meet the needs of the homeless as well as they could. Many of the homeless have the potential and skills to get their lives back on track, but they must get clean and stay away from the things and people that may be holding them down. Shane concluded that we still have a long way to go before we are able to eradicate homelessness as a whole.
By Kenneth Yun
The person interviewed was Raj Hundal, a Windermere alumni. Raj is now a running candidate for the Surrey community of Tynehead. He was also a member of the parks board, with the position of commissioner from 2008 to2011.
Q: Define homelessness in your own words.
A: The basic essence of homelessness is the need for shelter or in other words a roof over one’s head
Q: What are some of the causes of homelessness?
A: It really varies; it could be anything from being unemployed to a break up in a relationship.
Q: What are some possible solutions for this issue?
A: A possible solution for this issue would be to ultimately create affordable housing.
Q: How much funding goes into combating homelessness?
A: I couldn’t be sure.
Q: When did homelessness become a major issue?
A: Homelessness became a major issue in 2009; a particular example was when Mayor Gregory Robertson promised to deal with the issue. He had stated that homelessness had to be multi jurisdictional and not just jurisdictional.
Q: When is it most difficult for homeless people to cope with being on the street?
A: Definitely in the winter time, because of the harsh winter conditions we have in Vancouver, homeless people often lose their lives because it gets so cold outside.
Q: Has homelessness increased or decreased over the years?
A: It has most certainly decreased. Over the years the annual homelessness count has made it possible to record this data.
Q: There was an issue that came to the forefront in 2009 to2010, what was the issue?
A: Vancouver’s homeless shelters needed funding to stay open, and the government was considering about taking them away. This would have left six hundred people homeless; they would then have needed to reside in parks for shelter.
Q: What’s being done now to address homelessness in our community?
A: When I was elected a park board commissioner Collingwood had a meal and shower program, this was started by Bill McMichael, I believe this program carries on today.
Q: Have you ever been affected by homelessness personally?
A: Homelessness has not really affected me personally, it is mostly a concern for me as it should be for all levels of government.
Q: Have you ever talked to a homeless person about what they think people can do to help them?
A: Yes I actually talked to a man who told me that the number one thing to him was for people to respect him and other homeless people, he also talked about acceptance.
Q: What is important to know about mental illnesses?
A: The most important thing about understanding mental illness is to understand it’s not always visible, for instance, depression or anxiety is something that is not always seen when you interact with someone.
Q: Can mental illness be prevented?
A: No, mental illnesses cannot be prevented but they can indeed be treated. The treatments can vary from medications to meetings with a counselor, or something along those lines.
Q: Does having a mental illness play a role in some people being homeless?
A: I think this would sometimes be a factor but not all homeless people have mental illnesses.
Q: What treatment options are available for homeless people with mental illnesses?
A: I think the most important thing is for the homeless person to seek help from a shelter, or seek help from someone that can guide them to go down the right path.
Q: Are you part of any non-profit societies?
A: No not at the moment, but I once visited a shelter called Portland Housing. They get funding from the government to provide shelters. It is a non-profit society; this is something that interests me.
Q: What can I do to help?
A: Well, for one you can show respect and acceptance towards homeless people. Or, you can be able to point them in the right direction if they need help with housing.
Q: Why do you think homeless people can’t get jobs to get themselves off the streets?
A: This is a very interesting thing. The upfront answer is that many people believe that the homeless are not suited for the job because of their circumstances. Question such as how would he or she come to work clean arise for employers when confronting the homeless.
By Gurpreet Dhillon and Trevor Lima
My interview with Chris Jamieson from Collingwood Neighborhood House was very interesting. Chris’ ideas and attitude towards other people is truly kind and caring.
I started my interview with Chris by questioning him about people with mental illnesses more commonly being on the streets than others. Chris replied by saying people that are homeless do not usually have a mental illness, that there are more people with mental disorders that are in houses than in streets, thanks in part to Coast Mental Health and More Than A Roof and BC Housing.
My second question to Chris was: In his mind, does he think people with mental illnesses should have more benefits than those who are just homeless? Chris said no because it removes people with mental illnesses out of society. He believes that people with mental illnesses should have much more access to certain programs that can help them with their illnesses.
Question three: Are people with mental illnesses more dangerous to themselves or to others? Chris told me that many people that are homeless and have mental illnesses are not at all likely to hurt others. Instead they are dangerous to themselves when influenced to do plenty of horrible things. Although, his final answer comes down to a person’sindividual actions.
Fourth question: People that are homeless, generally the ones he has seen and met, was it their fault that they became homeless or was it due to some problem they had. He said that for 99.9% of people that are homeless, it is not their fault and a big percent of people homeless do usually have an education of some sort but unfortunately, life wasn’t so good to them. One reason why Chris does this is because he understands that we are all people and could use a helping hand once and a while.
Question five: Do people with and without mental illnesses that are homeless have any family, friends, or anyone they can see regularly for help? Unfortunately, many people don’t because most come for a chance to get employed or start a life but don’t luck out and instead get stuck here with nothing. Fortunately, some do have family and friends but only a few do.
Question six: Is there any attention given to people that are homeless and do you think they care or don’t dare care about others that are homeless? Chris told me that there is great concern; there are close to five hundred volunteers in the field to stop homelessness. I brought up a comment about an individual in the response to little mountain town housing said he is glad that everyone is been kicked out because he is sick and tired of paying his taxing money to people that area to lazy to work. When I told Chris this he said that there are people that don’t understand the trouble and problems of what people go through and that some aren’t as caring. He told me one of Gandhi’s quotes: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members”, reminding us that we are all people.
Seventh question: Is Vancouver’s homelessness a big problem compared to the rest of North America?. Chris said that it’s an alarming number but homelessness is a world-wide problem and leaving it aside is huge mistake.
Eighth question: Does he believe that the government is truly trying their best to get people off the streets? Chris replied toward the federal government and told me that they are not all just pushed aside and given to the next prime minster to handle.
Ninh question: What are the many misconceptions when it comes to homelessness? Chris jumped right into a moment where one student’s image of a homeless person carrying many garbage bags filled with cans and juice boxes doesn’t at all mean they’re homeless. Everyone has an image of a homeless person but it isn’t usually right because anyone can be homeless; there is no real image of a homeless person because anyone can be homeless.
Tenth question: Are many on the street with mental illnesses struggling more than others without it?He said that they aren’t always because there’s a great deal of support but there should still be more support.
Final question: What is the major downside of not getting Vancouver’s homeless problem fixed? Chris told me many problem could rise, and brought back the Gandhi quote he already said, a quote he really believes and thinks many others should as well.
My interview with Chris Jamieson was very enjoyable; I was fond of his opinion and it was very pleasing because he cares about people in need very much.
By Aydean Mehri
Hey Warriors! The Law 12 classes are going to host a clothing drive this week from October 9 -12 during homelessness action week to help out the homeless people that are in need of supplies. Homelessness is a very large issue across Canada. In Vancouver, the cost of housing is expensive and some people cannot afford to live with a roof overhead with these prices. The lowest cost of living is $375 per month. The money that the homeless are getting from welfare is $375, which means nearly 75 percent of the city’s cheapest housing remains unaffordable for those on welfare. To help our cause, please donate your unused toothpaste, toothbrush and any gently used clothing or socks to the Law 12 clothing drive. Your donation is very important to us and it will help the homeless people significantly.
By Jason Do
The term “homelessness” is by definition, a terrifying word. Homelessness refers to people who live in poverty, not knowing if they will have a place to sleep every night. Even more frightening is the number of people who are homeless.
Homelessness can be caused by poverty, drug addictions, physical, mental or emotional abuse, and even just bad luck. Homeless counts have recorded that the number of people living in homelessness has increased. In 2002, there were 1,121 homeless people. Six years later in the 2008 homeless count, it was recorded that 2,660 people were living in homelessness, and 41 per cent were sheltered. These reports have made it clear that homelessness is an important problem that needs to be solved.
In my Law 12 class, the Renfrew Collingwood Homeless Committee spoke about their goals in the mitigation of homelessness. We learned, in the discussion about homelessness, that the number of homeless people has decreased. The latest Vancouver homeless count in 2011 revealed that 2,650 people were homeless. Although the number was only decreased by 10 people, the percentage of sheltered homeless increased by 30 per cent, making the total percentage of sheltered people 71 per cent.
There are currently many programs working towards their goal of eradicating homelessness. For example, the “Morning Star Program” of the Collingwood Neighborhood area provides not only breakfasts for the homeless, but also donates clothes. UBC Nursing students also provide health services. This program and many others are putting time and effort into battling homelessness.
When Gregor Robertson was elected as mayor, part of his campaign was that by 2015, absolute homelessness on the streets of Vancouver would end. Despite this, his party, and the government’s efforts, this issue has not yet been resolved. Many argue that the mayor and many others do not understand that ultimately, ending homelessness is a long term commitment.
By Angus Chen
Mental illnesses are one of the major concerns in our world. There are several different forms such as anxiety disorder, mood disorder, and bipolar disorder. They may be easy to recognize, but many people are reluctant to seek help. Due to the fact that they may be a threat to themselves or the public, the B.C. Mental Health Act has allowed doctors to put their patients in the hospital for a minimum of 48 hours. Although there are no cures for these illnesses, doctors can provide medication or talk therapy which can help the patient recover.
The majority of homeless people have faced mental illnesses in their life. Approximately 22% of people in Canada became homeless because of their illness. Many refused to seek help because they are afraid of discrimination and addiction to the treatment. Though there are many non-profit organizations in Canada that are willing to provide help, they do not have the ability to contact these homeless people because they do not have access to a phone.
One of these organizations is the Mood Disorders Association of BC (MDA). MDA’s mission is to provide support and education for people with mood disorders. An accomplishment they have achieved in regards to dealing with mental health issues is that they have treated more people in Canada than a traditional psychiatrist does in a year. Because they are a non-profit organization, the government plays a huge role in funding them and applying grants. Being such a successful organization, I decided to arrange an interview with MDA to gather further information.
I had arranged an interview with Catherine St. Denis, the assistant operation manager in MDA. Her thoughts on mental illnesses are that they are frightening diseases that can ruin a person’s life and that there should be more psychiatrists in Canada. One of her major concerns is the lack of contact with to homeless people who requires medication. She says that homeless people do not have access to a computer where they can be contacted through email or gather information relating to their illness. Another problem is that people refuse to get treatment because of embarrassment. She feels that many people lives have been ruined because they refused to get help. As a result, many students have dropped out of school and families fell apart. One of her favorite programs in BC is Plan G, a program that offers free medication to those with low income. She believes this program can reduce the amount of people becoming homeless because they lack medication and hopes that the government will make more programs like Plan G.
By Jason Chan
- The most common misconception: most homeless people are drunks, drug dealers, criminals, and/or failures in society
- Length of time: 47% of the 752 unsheltered homeless people interviewed last year had been living on the streets for 10 years of more
- Total homeless population: 2,650 homeless people were found in Metro Vancouver on March 15–16, 2011
- Number of homeless youth: 397 found in Metro Vancouver last year
- Number of homeless families: 56 families found in Metro Vancouver in 2011
By Zhong Zhong, Grade 11
When you walk down the street during the winter, do you notice that some people have created some extremely simple places to sleep somewhere on the street corners? Only a few pieces of thin paper may form their bedding; this is an example of homelessness. What are your thoughts when you see something like that happening in the lovely city of Vancouver? Do you just walk past them? Or do you go up and chat with them instead?
A month ago, something changed my mind about homelessness. (more…)
By Sophia Yamauchi, Grade 10
A hundred and sixty beds that were made available to the homeless last year will no longer be offered this winter, according to CBC News. The provincial government has stated that the extra beds will not be needed this year because of the 300 new social housing units opened earlier in the year. When some of the city’s homeless people were questioned on what they thought about the cut, they told the reporters that they will probably end up staying out in the cold this winter. They also said that the new social housing spots will either be full or inaccessible to them. Vancouver has what is called an Extreme Weather Response Program (EWRP), Click here for more!
This month, we are very lucky to have a large number of articles thanks to Ms Lee’s Law 12 class! As part of their homeless campaign project, many Law 12 students have written and submitted articles or interviews relating to the issue of homelessness in the City of Vancouver. While some of these articles can be found in print, the majority are online. This doesn’t mean they are any less well-written, though! They are, in fact, exclusive! You can’t read them anywhere else!
Because of the large influx of articles this month, our editors did not have enough time to edit all the articles, and so many Law 12 articles are presented in their original form; questions regarding an article should be directed to its writer.
Thank you, and enjoy!
Editors of the Windermere Word
By Anis Ali, Grade 12
1) What does being homeless mean to you?
It definitely means not having a home, but there’s more to it than that. It also means not having the peace of mind to pursue what you want.
2) In your opinion, what are some of the reasons for homelessness?
By Chris Pham, Grade 12
(Published online only)
Homelessness is one of the major issues our city has had to deal with in the past few years. Some reasons why people suffer from homelessness are unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, familial issues, and discrimination.
Currently, there aren’t many laws that deal with homelessness, but what we need to pay attention to are Bill C-304 and the National Housing Act. (more…)
By Julia Ji, Grade 12
Living in a beautiful city like Vancouver, it might be hard for us to imagine what it’s like to
suffer from harsh weather conditions and endure the pangs of an unfed stomach. Unfortunately, this is the reality that thousands of homeless Vancouverites must face every day.
Homelessness is “characterized by the instability of housing and the inadequacy of income, health care supports and social supports,” according to York University. This includes people who are completely homeless, those staying temporarily at emergency shelters or hostels, the ones who are staying temporarily with friends and family, as well as those who are “at risk” of becoming homeless.
By Harpreet Basra, Grade 12
(Published online only)
Homelessness happens everywhere around the world. Not all are drugs addict but some are even normal people like us who got the worst of it and experienced rough times with family or a loss of a job. First United Church was first established in 1885. It is a gospel community which rooted in the Christian faith that helps the homelessness by giving shelter, food, and care in the Vancouver East Side. Their objective is to get them back on their feet and get up from where they had fallen.
By Francesca Drake, Grade 12
(Published online only)
In a city teemed with business, tourism, and urban life, one might think it is unlikely to find poor people living on the streets. Unfortunately, 1,715 Vancouver citizens are forced to call the street their home, according to the Vancouver Homeless Count taken in March, 2010. Among those 1,715 Vancouverites, half are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and a quarter of them suffer from mental illnesses.
While these numbers are startling, there are many citizens dedicated to ending homelessness, who are involved in government projects or non-profit organizations. For example, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson administered the Homeless Action Plan, with a main priority of ending homelessness by 2015. However, in our present 2011, what measures are being taken to ensure we reach this goal?
By Edrick Dudang, Grade 12
(Published online only)
Me: My first concern is about Bill C-304. Bill C-304 is an affordable housing plan that is sponsored by Libby Davies. Can you comment on this bill on how this would reduce poverty rates and guarantee affordable housing to all Canadians?
Davies: Sure. Well, I’ll start of by saying that when you talk about the welfare of the population, there are certain things economically that I believe are our foundations. So, in other words, there are things that people need that are the building blocks of their economic well being. As opposed to something not critical for us to be able to take care of ourselves and have a respectful lifestyle, housing is one of them. So, to give you a list: housing, education, and a good job, these are the foundations we build our lives on. Having a car, going on vacations, having nice clothes, those things are nice to have but they are not foundational. (more…)