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 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…)
By Emily McBain-Ashfield, Grade 12
Throughout the past few decades, there has been a serious increase in the number of homeless people in downtown Vancouver. With the lack of affordable housing and well-paid jobs and 70% of youth having been abused as a child, it is hard to see a light at the end of this dark tunnel. Wondering about the political aspects of the situation as well as possible solutions, I talked to Don Davies, MP for Vancouver Kingsway about the issue of homelessness in the Vancouver area.
When asked about the cause of homelessness, Davies said that over the past 25 years, we have pursued an economic path that has increased disparities between the rich and the poor. This has shrunk the middle class. For example, (more…)
By Celia Lee, Grade 12
If you were given a choice, would you want to live in a house or spend your life on the streets? Covenant House Vancouver offers basic needs to 500 to 1000 homeless youths living in Vancouver. It consists of three core services. The first is the Community Support Services (CSS), consisting of street outreach, daily drop-ins, and housing support. Secondly, we have a crisis shelter that provides safe housing, food, clothing, and counselling to people from sixteen to twenty-two of age. The last service is the Rights of Passage (ROP), which is a temporary living program providing up to twenty-four months of supported living. (more…)
By Jenn Lin, Grade 12
(Published online only)
Peter Julian is the MP in the Burnaby New Westminster, he quite informative about the issue on homelessness. Some questions I have asked him are:
- What is your opinion about homelessness?
- Have you notice a visible increase or decrease?
- What do you think is the cause of homelessness?
- Should the Bill C -304 be passed?
- What might you think could be a solution?
- If homelessness continues to increase what do you think will have the biggest impact?
- Do you think there should be more awareness about homelessness?
- Why do you think that most people are unwilling to help homeless people?
- Why might someone become homeless?
- Do you think that homeless rate is stable, and can be prevented?
By Sally Pang, Grade 12
(Published online only)
When the Canadian economy suffers, it is especially tough for individuals without a home. It is one thing if an issue can’t be helped, but homelessness is definitely preventable. As a representative of Windermere’s Law 12 Educational Campaign on Homelessness, I interviewed Libby Davies, the New Democratic Party’s Member of Parliament for Vancouver East. She was the one who introduced Bill C-304, a bill to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and to “ensure secure, adequate, accessible, and affordable housing”. (more…)
By Kory Muenala, Grade 12
Did you know that there are over 1,700 people living on streets and in shelters in Vancouver? Could you have guessed that 50% of these people have lived without a home for over a year? Probably not… This is the reality Vancouver is facing today and it is one of the main concerns shared by many people in the city. Luckily, I was able to contact Katrina Hopkins, a shelter support worker. She has kindly provided us with some information about Powell Place, an emergency shelter for women. (more…)
By Jacky He, Grade 12
(Published online only)
I’d like to address everyone about homelessness, especially homelessness in Vancouver. My part in this Law 12 campaign was to interview an important member of society who has contributed in this issue; politicians. My interviewee was none other than Kerry Jang, a third-generation, Chinese male who is currently a professor at UBC. His field of expertise is psychology and with his education he has a better understanding and co-operates well with the homeless. “I know how people think,” he says. (more…)
On November 19, 2011, Vancouverites will cast their votes in to choose 1 Mayor, 10 Councillors, 7 Park Commissioners, and 9 School Trustees in the municipal election. With the big event just about a month away, the Word’s editors have interviewed two great individuals, both of whom are candidates of this fall’s election. From Vision Vancouver, we have Kerry Jang, a Professor of Psychiatry at UBC and a current City Councillor, as well as a Windermere alumnus from the 1980s! On the other hand, we have Bill Yuen from the Non-Partisan Association (NPA). He is an engineer and a former school trustee whose children both graduated from Windermere. Both Jang and Yuen are residents of our neighbourhood, and it has been a pleasure meeting them. We would like to thank them for making time for us in their busy schedules to create this segment!
So, without further delay, let’s get right into our interviews!
Kerry Jang on September 21, 2011:
A: There are two roles to my position as a City Councillor. First of all, all Councilors are essentially responsible for things like city budget, making sure the roads are clean, and ensuring that police and fire departments have money. But, more specifically, Gregor Robertson asked me to look into the issues of homelessness because that’s what I’ve been trained in. So a lot of my work is to do with homelessness, as well as the sex trade and how to protect women and young girls who might be lured into the trade.
Q: Why did you decide to become a City Councillor?
A: Because of my interest in mental illness. I got involved through working with homeless people. I set up the Saturday Breakfast and Shower Program at the Collingwood Neighborhood House to address homelessness in our area. It was unique for its time because we looked at what the homeless people needed instead of what we thought they needed. We asked, “What do you actually want?” and a guy answered, “I’ve got kind of a place to live but don’t like sleeping here. What I really want is a place to come and shower – because I stink – and a place to wash my clothes and have breakfast.” The whole point of the breakfast program was to create a place where they could be found. We made sure all the healthcare and mental health workers were there on Saturdays to see what they needed. So, that’s how we got them treated. It was great! Sometimes we could see people from the healthcare saying, “I finally found him. I’ve been looking for three months! He can finally take his medication today!” *High five!* Also, we made sure that a homeless count would be done in the city every year. Windermere students have helped with that, I believe. This tells us what kinds of services are needed. Why would I build a big, fancy healthcare centre if they’re not even here? We have now reduced homelessness by 83%. There had once been 1,000 people living on the street, and now there are only 145 left. It’s amazing!
Q: Is there any way students like us can become more involved in our city’s politics?
A: Absolutely! We have the Vancouver Youth and other advisory groups in the city. The Youth Justice Council and Restorative Justice are both very good examples. Also, there are a lot of community consultations where youth can come and leave their comments, which are the most important to me. I’m just a few years away from reaching fifty years old now, so I’ll be seventy when the stuff I’ve been planning comes to fruition! On the other hand, you guys will still be at the prime of your lives, so you will be the ones to take the actions and carry out the initiatives. If any students want to get involved in the city’s politics, they can contact me directly and I’ll hook you up. In January, if I get re-elected, I’ll be happy to take applications from students who want to sit on our advisory boards.
Q: What was Windermere like in 1980?
A: We were just coming out of the Disco era, so lots of guys were walking around with afros. Girls didn’t wear makeup – t-shirt and jeans were all they wore. We had a reputation as a tough school; my teeth actually got punched out one time. We were really mouthy, really street-smart. There was a real spirit in the school, though, and the teachers were fantastic! They really worked to make sure we focused on what was important. They also understood that a lot of us came from a poor background – I did. They tailored programs to help us out because we couldn’t afford tutors. In fact, we all had to work and give money to our families. Right after school – bam – a lot of us would head out to our jobs. It was a very different time economically.
Windermere was our place and we wanted to protect it. It had been a good experience here. I joke about the fights a lot, but they only happened once in a while; it wasn’t a warzone in here. When I went to my 30th high school reunion, I saw that everyone was doing really well. They owned businesses, they were professional, and one was a stand-up comedian! Despite the reputation we had when I was here, everyone turned out really well.
Q: Where did you go after graduating from Windermere?
A: I graduated from Windermere – barely – with a GPA of C-. My teachers told me to go to Langara for a year or two. There, I found something I really wanted to do, which was psychology, and from there I went to SFU, then to the University of Western Ontario, where I did my PhD, and afterwards I went to UBC. Now, I’m a full professor with tenure. It’s really all because people gave me time and understood my background, and that’s what Windermere was about. We were all tough kids. You guys are in a better place, I think, and you’re a lot smarter.
Q: Earlier this year, Vision’s creation of the bike lanes downtown was scrutinized for being rather inefficient, and a waste of space. What are your thoughts on that?
A: The bike lanes have been on the city’s transportation plan for 30 years. We finally decided to implement them because we noticed from data that car trips had decreased about 50% and more people were riding bikes than ever before. Without bike lanes, cyclists slowed down traffic. By creating dedicated bike lanes, we’ve actually increased traffic flow throughout downtown. Businesses thought that they would be impacted, but none of that happened. Instead, their profits went up because people without cars are now willing to go downtown. My favorite argument was that it destroys parking, but we did a study and there are more than ten thousand excess spaces along Hornby Street’s bike lane alone. I drive downtown and I’ve never had a problem finding parking, so I don’t buy any of those arguments. What we’re actually seeing is an increase in the number of bikers – it has skyrocketed. North American culture, though, is that we love our cars. This is why we need youth to change our perspective.
Q: Any advice for the Windermere students?
A: Do what you love! The money will come with it.
Q: Can you introduce yourself to readers of the Word?
A: I’ve been in Canada for almost forty years and Vancouver is very special for me. I met and married my wife of thirty-five years and raised my family here. I’m also glad that I’ve had the opportunity to help the community for the past twenty years. I had been a school board trustee; on the city of Vancouver’s Planning Commission; on the board of the Vancouver Public Library; and a council member with the Ministry of Children and Family Services. I also headed the PAC of Windermere at one point. I have done volunteer work at community centers and all sorts of fundraising for several public organizations.
Q: Your children went to Windermere, right? What do you think of the school?
A: I think it was one of the smaller schools in Vancouver, but it’s pretty close-knit and a pretty good school Both of my children got into UBC and one of them became a lawyer.
Q: If you were to be elected as a City Councillor, what would your responsibilities be?
A: Well, certainly I would be responsible for providing services to Vancouverites and for dealing with issues that come up within the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Taking care of various orders and supplies and Translink – that is part of the City Council’s responsibilities.
Q: So, you want to direct your main focus to the engineering aspect of the city?
A: Well, no, actually. I would probably have to look into the all the different aspects. I find that Vancouver needs to be more than just a green city; it has to be competitive and affordable in order to survive. What I see with young people nowadays is that it is getting tougher and tougher for them to live in Vancouver, which makes holding down taxes one of my aims. If you look at the last three years, they raised taxes by 8% in the first year with an increase in the price of houses. Just coming into the market has become an issue for them. The second area that I can work on is streamlining cumbersome regulations to improve services. My experience over the last twenty years as an industrial engineer has shown that different processes and programs can be streamlined. This way, I can make it easier for the small businesses in our city.
Q: Gregor Robertson was elected in 2008 on the platform that he would make Vancouver the world’s greenest city by 2020. What is your take on the environmental issue?
A: I support Vancouver in becoming a green city – we all want to live in a green city – but it needs to have a balanced approach. You need to balance the needs of other constituencies. For instance, bike lanes are being built on existing sidewalks and some citizens did complain to me. Once, I saw an 84-year-old with a walker having to walk past the bike lane down a hill before he can get to the car parked beside the street. I see the current government really stuffing this down our throats, saying that “this is [their] way and this is the only way.” As a matter of fact, I talked to some nearby residents and they came up with really good alternative ideas, but there hasn’t been any meaningful consultation with citizens like them.
Q: What about the store owners along the bike lanes? Have they encountered any problems?
A: Like I said, you have to look at the overall impact. Something can’t just be implemented for a special interest group. It has to be inclusive; you need to look at the interests of all Vancouverites. Going green is a good initiative, but it can’t be carried out at the expense of others.
Q: What should be the number one issue for a City Councillor?
A: I would say it’s accountability at this point. It’s important that we are accountable to our citizens and willing to find out what they need. From what I heard from people in Vancouver, affordability is number one and they don’t want to see any tax hikes, as well as money being spent unwisely. Why expand the mayor’s office or create a new lunchroom? Why would they spend millions of dollars on secret bailouts? Why spend money to make shelters for homeless chickens?
Q: Homeless chickens?
A: The government created a shelter for homeless chickens – chickens that, say, people raised but then released. That’s something the current City Council is building. Citizens don’t want us to waste money like that. That’s why I’ll certainly go for more financial transparency if I get elected. Right now, there’s just too much money spent on things that people don’t know about.
Q: Recently, parking has become an issue in Vancouver. There have been areas on Kingsway, for instance, where they have suddenly included parking meters. Is this actually a good thing for the city or just a way for them to exploit the citizens?
A: I will say that it will definitely have some impact on local businesses and I don’t think that’s the way to go. It comes back to the bike lanes downtown. They have taken away the parking there and they have to get parking fees elsewhere, so they pick places that have good businesses and a busy traffic. The bike lanes were put in so fast that there wasn’t time for any good consultation.
Q: Do you have any advice for our readers still in high school?
A: Well, hard work! I think there’s no substitute for hard work. The real world is tougher than school, you have to be educated and be prepared. No matter what your post-secondary plans are, hard work always pays off. You have to work in the community, do volunteer work, and help others. Be a good citizen!
By: Kaitlyn Fung, Grade 8
The vending machine: a wonderful contraption that will dispense snacks for less than two dollars. But what happens when it doesn’t work? Who fixes the vending machine? He’s a senior, he’s tall, he’s awesome, and he’s Nathanael Leung; but he prefers to be called Nate.
First off, why do you even take care of the vending machine?
Nate: Well, it’s a leadership project, and I’ve always been interested with food. It was actually quite fun for me. It looked interesting to handle.
Have you ever been really frustrated with this job?
Nate: Yes, yes. Um, because I get 5-6 calls a day about problems, like things getting stuck in the machine. I call the companies but they say there’s nothing they can really do. With 5 calls a day, about 35 calls a week, you can calculate how many calls I get in a month.