AHA MEDIA visit inside Howe Street Shelter at 1442 Howe St in Vancouver

AHA MEDIA together with Wendy Pedersen and Dave Murray of Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) visit the Howe Street Shelter at 1442 Howe St in Vancouver that is due to be closed down on Thursday April 28, 2011

Homeless will start Tent City to demand shelter

Vancouver:  Five emergency shelters are scheduled to close because of lack of funding and commitment from the city and province starting on April 27th.  Homeless reps from three shelters with the support of housing advocates announced their intention to start tent cities outside shelters if funding is not renewed within 24 hours.

These 3 shelters are slowly emptying out and scheduled to close immediately:

747 Cardero St (Wednesday)

1442 Howe St (Thursday)

677 E Broadway @ Fraser St (Friday)

There are about 20-30 people remaining in these 3 shelters.  Residents in these shelters lack options once their shelters close.  They can’t rent apartments because of stigma from landlords.  No social housing is available.  Many can’t bear to go back to an infested, unsafe SRO in areas where they used to use drugs or have been “red zoned” by police.

As Marta from the Howe shelter said, “I’m going to stay right here in the alley.  We are here because we don’t want to be alone.  We got nobody.  Everyone else has a family, we don’t. This is our family.”  Marta said she doesn’t buy the excuse that governments don’t have money.  She explained that each person in her shelter is eligible for $375 a month for rent on welfare and if you multiply this by 40 people per shelter that means BC Housing already has $15,000 a month to spend to keep her shelter open.

“I can’t go to an SRO”, said Chase from the Cardero Shelter.  “I’ll go crazy and just end up back on the street.  If this shelter closes, I guess I’ll head to the Super Value parking lot.  That’s where we came from before they opened this place up.”  “If I lose this place, these regular meals and my guaranteed spot here, then I’ll go back to selling drugs to survive,” said Deanna, also from the Cardero Shelter.  Don from the Fraser shelter who is about 65 years old said:  “Two women near IGA on Broadway got me to come here about a month ago.  I’ve been outside a long time.  I guess if they close this, I’ll be in the doorways, back laneways and behind restaurants.”  Kerry from Howe said:  If this closes I’ll find an abandoned house.  I have my Coleman stove.  I hope nobody will notice me.  If this shuts down, the government will spend more money on corrections.  People here will be panhandling, living in the allies.  You would think they would rather we stay in the shelter.”

Shelter residents are under stress from poor health and because of the impending closure, but despite that, there is a strong spirit among many who want to stick together and form a vigil in front of the shelter to make their concerns heard.  Advocates have joined together to defend shelter residents from losing their ground, their networks of support and these makeshift homes.

Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project said, “We are mortified that we have to fight for these shelters every year.  Premier Clark promised to regularize funding for shelters.  She needs to show she’s in charge and get funding within 24 hours plus commit to building 2000 social housing units a year in BC.  We need the Mayor to live up to his promises to end homelessness, buy land for social housing and cancel his office renovations in order to pay to keep these shelters open as long as needed.”

Gail Harmer, Council of Senior Citizens of BC, talked to shelter residents and asks:  “Do Vancouverites realize that increasingly seniors are among the people using these temporary shelters?  We simply cannot afford housing costs even after we sell all our possessions and go without medications and food!!  We appreciate the ‘care’ and ‘community’ of these temporary 24 hour shelters.  With their closing, the housing options offered by BC Housing are less appealing than the streets!  Can you imagine?!”

“Last spring, the City and Province shut down 5 shelters. Now they are shutting down 5 more, kicking people who have nowhere else to go onto the street. There is no good reason to do this. Everyone suffers. This cruel and precarious situation has to change,” said Tristan Markle of Vanact! “Mayor Robertson won power on the backs of the poor and working-poor, promising to make Vancouver affordable and to end homelessness. But the City is becoming less affordable every day, and the numbers of homeless are only increasing. We need a big change.”

“Here we are with shelters closing in the same week the City of Vancouver passes a law saying it is illegal to put up shelter on a public street,” said Doug King, lawyer at Pivot Legal Society.  “The lack of understanding is appalling.”

For more information, contact:

Wendy Pedersen, Carnegie Action Project (604) 839-0379

Nate Crompton, Vanact:   604-700-2309
Doug King, Pivot lawyer 778-898-6349

Advocates:

Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity

BC Association of People on Methadone

Carnegie Community Action Project

Citywide Housing Coalition

Council of Senior Citizens of BC (COSCO)

DTES Neighbourhood Council

DTES Women’s Centre Power to Women

Gallery Gachet

Indigenous Action Movement

Pivot Legal Society

St. Augustine’s social justice committee

Streams of Justice

Teaching Support Staff Union Social Justice Committee

Urban Subjects

Vanact!

Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users

Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society

Background info:

1)     Homeless Count

According to the 2010 homeless count, the number of homeless in Vancouver has increased 12% from 2008, from 1576 to 1762.  The count shows that the homeless continue to be disproportionately Aboriginal, older and in poor health.  Until now, most homeless people have been able to find shelter beds; the closure of these shelters will mean more than 600 people will sleep on the streets of Vancouver.

http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/housing/pdf/VancouverHomelessCount2010.pdf

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  1. November 2, 2011 at 2:51 am

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