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

BC VIEWS: Urban drug ghettos don’t work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Just Posted

Sunny day crash hampers traffic on Blanshard in Saanich

Lanes closed Monday afternoon as one person taken to hospital

West Shore RCMP arrives just in time thanks to tip

Officers remind of resources after mental health call Monday morning

Man arrested after speeding to Victoria court date for driving offence

West Shore RCMP remind drivers to be mindful of construction zones

Victoria police seek suspects in series of bear spray attacks

Police responded to several calls Saturday evening

Thief steals ice cream bars from Oak Bay Dairy Queen

Oak Bay resident out nearly $10,000 as CRA scam strikes again

No safe mask option for bearded members, RCMP says, but force is exploring solutions

RCMP says respirator not mandatory in all front-line situations, but sometimes needed to reduce risk

B.C. VOTES 2020: Echoes of HST in B.C. debate over sales tax

Cannabis, tobacco, luxury cars still taxed in B.C. Liberal plan

She warned her son about toxic drugs, then he was dead

Donna Bridgman’s son died at the age of 38 in Vancouver

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Duration of Tour de Rock stop in Chemainus much shorter than usual

Four alumni riders don’t get to come for breakfast in COVID year

B.C. food and beverage producers set record sales in 2019

Farmed salmon again leads international exports

Police seek help in naming Cowichan farm stand theft suspect

Video captured man prying cash box out stand on Norcross Road

Pedestrian dies in motor vehicle incident along the highway near Nanaimo Airport

Police investigating scene where 37-year-old woman from Nanaimo died

Most Read