CARE HOUSE PLAN
Despite billions of dollars in social spending – over the past decade – many citizens in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) flounder in poverty, substance abuse, and neglect. The quality of life for people in the DTES is degenerating not improving!
The army of the homeless grows every day. Meanwhile, City Hall builds a “poverty industry” – groups consuming billions of tax dollars, with no real accountability. No one knows where the money goes. A lot of money goes to into the poverty industry, rather than to needy folks in the DTES. Sure, we need more resources, but we need understanding and leadership, too.
True, homelessness is tragic; however, it is not the root problem. These people are usually unemployed (or underemployed), afflicted by illness, physical handicaps, addictions, and severe psychological disorders. Indeed, homelessness has many faces:
- More than one-third is from the First Nations (mostly from outside Metro Vancouver). They are entitled to Federal funding, but those benefits go to their place of origin. We must get those funds allotted to Indigenous people in Vancouver. That is critical to lifting this population out of the poverty cycle.
Over half of this population were housed – and often working – within a year of becoming homeless.
About one-quarter of the homeless suffers from a long-term mental illness. They need treatment or even institutional care. So, we support re-opening Riverview Hospital.
About 10% are veterans (Army, Navy, and Air Force). Again, there is funding from the VAC, especially for people with PTSD, and other disabilities. Sadly, these vets are victims of government bureaucracy.
Addiction, substance abuse, and health conditions often haunt homelessness. It is part of a vicious cycle, with no easy way out.
About 80% of the homeless are from outside Metro Vancouver. In fact, almost half this group are from outside the Province. That is why we must gain support from other jurisdictions.
Care House is unique. It grabs best-practices from all over the world – employment training, detoxification, coaching and such. It is a one-stop shop. Care House staff will draw from a complete range of social service specialists, tailoring programs to meet each person’s needs. Yes, it starts with housing but focuses on personal rehabilitation.
TO MOVE FORWARD, WE NEED TO:
Shift the paradigm form entitlement to personal transformation,
Galvanize communities and other stakeholders, identifying resources, finding good Care House locations, and creating programs for the homeless,
Enlist support from multiple levels of government (Federal, Provincial, and Municipal), to find solutions adapted to each type of homelessness, and
Launch a Homelessness Prevention Call Centre – a multi-lingual, well-trained team, tasked with helping people before they fall victim to homelessness.
Care House will include up to three buildings, erected over four years, on City land. We are focusing on several areas; namely, Oppenheimer Park, False Creek Flats, and Olympic Village. These areas have good access to the new St. Paul Hospital. That is vital because many residents will need medical care. Care Houses will be part of mixed developments, comprising affordable rental, entry-level units for first-time buyers, and green living space.
This is a holistic approach. The goal is healing mind and body. It is about getting the homeless off streets and into meaningful lives.
Sure, this is ambitious, but doable because we will: a) spend our social services budgets more capably, b) allocate developer contributions to Care House (rather than to extra bike lanes or destruction of viaducts), and c) get the support of all levels of government.
We will have one effective system. It will embody best-practices, rather than feeding a “poverty industry” that fails the homeless population for over a decade. Care House dovetails with Mutual Respect, Real Affordable Housing, and Clean City policies.
As a sociologist, Wai Young has worked in the DTES, with different programs and associations. Besides, she knows how to negotiate with Federal and Provincial Governments. Wai Young and the Coalition team are committed to ending homelessness.
Yes, homelessness is a complex problem. There is no quick fix. However, with ingenuity, we will clean up our streets, and give care and dignity to those who need it most.
Vancouver can—and should—be the kindest city.
Let’s do it.