Monday, January 5, 2009

Free Screening of 'The Way Home'

There will be a private work-in-progress screening of the documentary film:

“The Way Home”

on Jan 7th at 3pm @ The Vancity Theater, Vancouver International Film Centre, 1181 Seymour at Davie.

This independent community documentary project, being created by a collaborative of formerly street involved, award winning filmmakers, has been in production for the past year throughout the province of BC. The film tells the story of a musician named John who ran away from an abusive family when he was 14 years old and has been a homeless addict on the streets of the Downtown Eastside ever since. Together with, the story of David, the official homelessness opposition critic in the BC Legislature, as he fights to make affordable housing a human right for all. Behind the scenes social, political and bureaucratic dysfunction is revealed through candid interviews with service providers, developers, police, politicians, youth, seniors, working class families, and the homeless people themselves that provide insight into the crisis. While the film explores solutions to the problem, it is a somber reminder that we still have a long road ahead of us to find “The Way Home”.

An educational study guide is being developed in collaboration with SFU to be used within BC classrooms. The film will be distributed via the same model used by Pivot’s: Hope & Shadows Calendar project, employing the un-employed, poor, at-risk, homeless, and/or former street involved persons as vendors earning earn 50% of the revenue from the sales.

Refreshments served and door prizes donated by local community vendors. Feedback forms will be passed out upon entrance. Supporters and partners will be acknowledged and thanked, potential alliances encouraged and explored. We request your attendance to participate in the creation of this project documenting and advocating for change and to learn more about the issue and be a part of the solution!

For more info on this free event or to contribute to the project in any way, please contact:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ordering a DVD Copy of 'The Way Home'

There have been some queries as to how people can get a copy of the new work in progress documentary film 'The Way Home.'

If you or your organisation are interested in purchasing a copy of 'The Way Home' please click on the above image and print the document. All monies raised through DVD sales will go directly to the filmmakers.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Penticton Screening

Our screening of "The Way Home" in Penticton took place on Wednesday evening, December 3rd.

A big issue that was discussed after the film was the "Not in My Backyard" syndrome. People were concerned that when social housing, supportive housing or transitional housing come to a neighbourhood, there is often a negative reaction from some in the community. There was consensus that everyone shoould speak out to support these facilitities. Community leaders (especially elected officials) have a special responsibility to be courageous and respectfully oppose those who fear these important initiatives.

We pointed out that the choice is not between social housing in your neighbourhood on the one hand and stability on the other. Rather, the choice is between providing homes for those who need them (and the support for them to be succesful in those homes) or the instability and inhumanity of homelessness that affects every community in the province. Homelessness will not disappear from our neighbourhoods if we ignore it and simply wish it away.

Other issues brought up were the challenge people (especially seniors,) have getting support from the Ministry of Employment and Income Assisitance, and the problems faced by those living in manufactured homes as landlords raise rents and sell off land for development.

The next leg of the tour will be in late January. Watch this blog for our schedule.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Homeless Film Tour Begins in Kamloops and Kelowna

The first leg of 'The Way Home' film tour has begun this week in Kamloops and Kelowna. People have been very moved by the movie. The issues examined have resonated with everyone who attended. Many have commented that the film is depressing but an accurate and realistic portrayal of the struggles of homeless people in BC today.

In Kamloops, a young woman who was a student talked about her feelings of guilt. She worries that because she lives on a limited income and resides in a low rent apartment, people who have less money than she has can't find a place to live. And she worries that this is a pattern across the province.

A young man who had experienced homelessness thought the film was a realistic portrayal of living on the street.

One man expressed the opinion that municipalities should have the responsiblity and power to create social housing because they are closeset to and understand the problems the best. We agreed but suggested that when senior govermnents provide resources to municipalities there should be a set of principles they must follow in the delivery of housing and services -- the Canada Health Act model.

In Kelowna, reaction was similar. People are looking forward to the opening of a new building in which the Willow project will provide transitional services.

An aboriginal woman spoke movingly and thoughtfully about the reality that aboriginal people are much more likely to be homeless. She expressed her outrage that despite the fact that aboriginal title has not been ceded in most of BC and therefore aboriginal people are potentially wealthy, they still suffer more than the broader population.

There was an excellent discussion, and consensus, that mental health services should be community based. People strongly agree that mental health issues are best dealt with the support of family, community and services providers working together.

In both towns people asked again and again what they could do to help end the crisis of homelessness in BC. We recommend that they demand of federal, provincial and municipal governments that they treat the homelessness crisis as a priority. We also suggested that they work with the Community Advocates for Little Mountain (CALM) who organise 'Stands For Housing' (Saturday afternoon demonstrations to end homelessness on street corners across the province.) Their contact information is

More than 65 people attended the screening in Kamloops and more than 75 in Kelowna.

Tonight we screen the film in Penticton at the Okanagan College Lecture Theatre at 7pm. We hope to see you there.

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Film on Homelessness in BC- The Way Home

Dear Friend,

Today, between 10,000 and 15,000 British Columbians are homeless. They are our neighbours, our sisters and brothers, our sons and daughters.

Last year I traveled to 22 towns and cities across BC and spoke with hundreds of homeless people, service providers and local government officials. Two young film makers, Kevin Fitzgerald and Louvens Remy, followed the tour and did hundreds of hours of additional filming. The result, “The Way Home,” is a moving, thoughtful and informative film. We promised then to return to each of the towns we filmed in to show the movie, we are keeping that commitment.

British Columbians are caring and decent. We want to work together to end homelessness. This film showing is a chance for us to learn more about homelessness, and to speak with one another about what we can do to make our province a better place for every British Columbian.

I look forward to seeing you there.

David Chudnovsky
MLA Vancouver-Kensington

December 1st: Kamloops- 7pm Henry Grube Centre, 245 Kitchener
December 2nd: Kelowna- 7pm, Habitat 248 Leon Ave
December 3rd: Penticton- 7pm, Okanagan College, Lecture Theatre, 583 Duncan Ave.

Please check back for detailed reports on each of these movie screenings.

Carole James Introduces Homelessness Crisis Bill

Carole James, Leader of the Opposition, introduced a bill to deal with British Columbia's homelessness crisis on November 27th in the Legislature. The full text of the bill follows:

HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia,
enacts as follows:
1 “Minister” means the Minister of Forests and Range
“the plan” means the five-year plan referred to in section 1
Establishment of a five-year plan for the elimination of homelessness
2 (1) The Minister must establish a comprehensive five-year plan to resolve the crisis of homelessness in British
(2) The plan must have annual targets and timelines for the reduction of the number of homeless people in British Columbia.
(3) The plan must address the problem of homelessness both in rural and urban areas of British Columbia.
(4) The Auditor General must review annually the targets, timelines, and results of the Minister’s plan, and report his or her findings to the Legislative Assembly.
Coming into force
3 This Act comes into force on the date of Royal Assent

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Finding Our Way Home -- Recommendations

This is the sixth in a series of excerpts from the report on homelessness in BC, "Finding Our Way Home" prepared by David Chudnovsky, Opposition Critic for Homelessness in the Legislature. Today's portion lays out the twelve key recommendations of the report. The complete report can be read at

1) Re-establish the Ministry of Housing
Housing and homelessness are currently addressed by the Ministry of Forests and Range. In order to deal effectively with this crisis and to ensure the necessary coordination, setting of standards and accountability, the focus and resources of a stand-alone ministry and a dedicated minister are required.

2) Eliminate the homeless crisis in 5 years
The Homelessness Act 2008, which will be introduced by MLA David Chudnovsky in the fall session of the legislature, commits government to a plan to eliminate the crisis within 5 years. The plan must address problems in both rural and urban areas, and require the minister to establish annual targets and timelines for the reduction of homelessness. It will also mandate the Auditor General to report yearly on progress.

There are precedents from all over North America where it has been recognized that a concrete plan and goal to end homelessness are required to really make it happen. Today more than 300 US communities have committed themselves to plans as part of a nationwide effort to end homelessness in the United States.

It is, perhaps, important to comment briefly about the so-called “Portland Model”. We have much to learn from Portland, especially their commitment to “Housing First.” That city reduced homelessness by 70% in the first 18 months of their plan.
However, the situation in Portland (and many American cities which have begun to deal with homelessness) is significantly different from ours in at least one significant aspect. Portland had the ‘advantage’ of a healthy vacancy rate and therefore the availability of rooms and apartments into which homeless people could be placed. BC is not in the same situation. Low vacancy rates are a problem in almost every city and town in the province.

3) Re-invest in a social housing program
Key to eliminating the homelessness crisis is re-investment in a social housing program. At a minimum, a commitment to 2400 units immediately, plus 1200 annually is required.

The $250 million currently in the B.C. Housing Endowment Fund should be reallocated as an emergency infusion of funds towards these units.

In addition, innovative partnerships must be utilized to further expand the number of units. An end to the homeless crisis requires commitment and participation from all 3 levels of government, the private sector, non-profit organizations and other community institutions and organizations. The more partners willing to participate in the strategy, the more housing units can be built and more supports for success can be put in place.

A result of the dramatic shortage of homes is the development of serious bottlenecks in the shelter/housing that is available. For instance, emergency shelter staff report that people are staying much longer in their facilities than they had in the past, and staff are often ignoring the guidelines and allowing people to stay longer than the period to which they are entitled. As well, homeless people are often moving from one emergency shelter to another rather than finding permanent homes.
Similarly, there are reports from a number of service providers who administer transitional housing that clients are staying longer than they are supposed to because there is simply no place for them to go.

4) Support local governments and community organizations
Local government is a key partner in the battle to end homelessness. More needs to be done to facilitate and encourage local government to work with housing and community organizations and neighbourhoods. Many small and medium sized communities do not have the internal capacity to respond to homelessness. The establishment of a Small Communities Fund would provide resources to assist in the development of housing and other solutions.

Community Charter tools like inclusionary zoning, which require a percentage of affordable/social housing in developments over a certain size to facilitate
a mix of housing, need to be enhanced.

The Vancouver Social Housing Amendment Act, 2008 was introduced by MLA Jenny Kwan. This bill amends the Vancouver Charter to allow for increased density as compensation for the creation of social housing. These tools can be used to create units for people who are hard to house, as well as families with children,
seniors and individuals.

5) Focus on the whole province
Many think homelessness is a Lower Mainland problem or even simply a downtown eastside problem. The crisis exists in almost every city and town across BC. The government must focus on solutions for the whole province.

6) Expand social housing on existing sites
Existing social housing sites offer a valuable opportunity to increase the stock of social housing. When redevelopment takes place, a minimum of two for one replacement of existing units where the site and zoning allow it.

7) Include four key elements in social housing and support programs
In order to effectivively address the homelessness crisis, the following principles must be incorporated into any social housing and support programs:
• “Housing First plus the supports necessary for suc-
cess” including low barrier programs to meet
people where they are. A theme of the consulta-
tion was serious lack of, and the need for many
more “damp,” or “wet” services for people who are
homeless. This is a component part of the “Hous-
ing First” approach, which insists that people do
not have to “clean themselves up” before they
are entitled to a place to live. However these kinds
of facilities (whether emergency shelters, transi-
tion housing etc.) are extremely hard to find and
the ones that do exist are overburdened and un-
der resourced.

Specific targeted programs are needed to meet
the needs of people coming out of jail who are
discharged to shelters, children in care transition
ing to adulthood, people coming out of hospitals
with nowhere to go and first nations people;

• Homelessness prevention including support for
third party rentals by organizations so people with
out references/experience renting can get housing;
a program that provides support for small
landlords who house people who are hard to
house; and emergency support for tenants to keep
their housing;

• Adequate infrastructure including the provision of
adequate staffing resources for organizations pro-
viding housing for the hard to house;

• Accountability to ensure that programs meet targets
and standards.

8) Maintain and expand the public land bank
Social housing and the land it sits on is a legacy for our province which should not be sold off. If government chooses to derive additional income from this land then it should be leased, not sold.

To reduce the cost of public social housing, federal, provincial and municipally owned land should be utilized. In addition, SRO sites in communities like the Downtown Eastside can be used as land for social housing.

9) Protect manufactured home tenants
The Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Amendment Act 2008 introduced by New Democrat MLA Harry Bains strengthens the rights and security of tenure for tenants living in manufactured home parks. This is essential to preventing displacement and increased homelessness.

10) Strengthen security of tenure and rights for tenants
The Residential Tenancy Act Amendment Act 2008 introduced by New Democrat Opposition MLA Diane Thorne provides more protection for tenants facing eviction and provides new rights for tenants to move back into their homes after renovations at reasonable rents. A second Residential Tenancy Act Amendment Act 2008 introduced by New Democrat Opposition MLA Jenny Kwan institutes a rent freeze on single room accommodations for a three-year period to ensure rents do not skyrocket during the 2010 Olympics. Both of these initiatives are key to preventing increased homelessness.

Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance policy allows security deposits to be provided to clients only twice. In rare circumstances a third deposit is provided. This does not make sense. The consequence of the policy is that people are prevented
from accessing an apartment or room simply because they do not have the “up front” money for a security deposit.

The Ministry argues that once someone has lost a damage deposit twice it is inappropriate to provide a third one. But this ignores a number of factors. Many people are unaware that they are entitled to have their deposit returned when they leave a rental. Some landlords cheat and choose not to return the deposit even when the renter is entitled to it. For people in marginalized situations a dispute over a security deposit and engagement with the residential tenancy branch is a forbidding and difficult process.

11) Increase income assistance rates and the minimum wage
Inadequate income levels must be increased if British Columbians are to be able to afford housing and the barriers to getting on and staying on income assistance need to be addressed.

12) Increase mental health and addiction services
Homelessness is linked to many other social determinants such as poverty, mental health and addiction. In addition to the recommendations above, increasing mental health and addiction services is essential to effectively addressing homelessness.

A significant problem is the lack of mental health and addictions programs in the regions. Services in Vancouver are inadequate, but the situation outside of the Lower Mainland is even worse. One of the results is that people who need support and treatment flock to Vancouver, and often to the downtown eastside, because there is at least a chance they will get much needed services.

This places an added burden on already dramatically overburdened service providers in Vancouver while it removes fragile people from their own communities where they may have useful family and social supports.