Thursday, February 21, 2008

Castlegar, Trail -- Day Three

Today in Castlegar we saw an extraordinary example of community concern and organizing. There is no government supported emergency shelter in town. So a group of residents has found a way to provide temporary emergency accomodation.

Enough donations have been collected to rent a small apartment in a motel/trailer park to use as an emergency shelter. This unit has room for two people to stay. The owner of the motel provides it at less than cost and arranges for maintenance and upkeep. He also rents out the rest of the motel at very affordable rates to people who need low rent housing -- and, together with his wife and the maintenance person/caretaker -- provides as much support and assistance as possible to the residents.

Members of the community provide food and do informal outreach. When they hear of someone who needs a temporary place to stay they find that person and, if necessary, bring them to the motel.

The owner of the motel was moved to tears as he told us of his commitment to make sure no one is left without a place to stay. All of these committed community members are stretched to the limit and are looking for help from the provincial government to do their impportant work.

Kootenays Day Three -- Castlegar, Trail

9:00 AM -- Food Bank, St. David's Anglican Church
9:45 AM -- Visit temporary ad hoc emergency shelter
10:00 AM -- Freedom Quest Regional Youth Services
11:00 AM -- Mental Health and Addiction Services
12:00 -- Castlegar Community Services Society
2:00 PM -- Trail Mental Health and Addictions Advocates and Volunteers
3:00 PM -- Salvation Army Kate's Kitchen

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nelson -- Day Two

Today we visited a remarkable program for at risk youth. The Cicada Place Youth Independent Housing and Outreach provides not just a home, but ongoing support for young people.

The philosophy of "Housing First" is key to solving the problem of homelessness. But to be succesful, homeless people -- like everyone else -- need to be part of a community. That means having a social network, feeling worthy and making a contribution to others. This model was very iunstructive in terms of the kinds of housing and supoports we need in BC.

We had an amazing discussion with a group of people at The Clubhouse, a welcoming and homey centre for people with mental health challenges. One participant said that the best programs for those with addiction and mental health problems include detox, treatment, support personnel and long-term independent housing on the same site.

Kootenays Day Two - Nelson

9:00 AM Salvation Army Emergency Shelter
10:00 AM Stepping Stones Emergency Shelter
11:00 AM United Church Food Cupboard
12:00 Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen
1:30 PM Mental Health Clubhouse
2:30 PM Cicada Place Youth Housing
3:30 PM Nelson Youth Centre
4:30 PM Youth Outreach Worker
6:30 PM Meet with Member of Parliament

Day 1 -- Cranbrook

We want to thank the people we met at the Salvation Army, many of them homeless, who were kind enough to tell us about their experiences. One of them told us that he
believes the situation in Cranbrook has improved this year because there is now an emergency shelter for men, and that showers and laundry facilities were built at the Salvation Army. But he reminded us that an emergency shelter is not a home. A home to him includes a room, kitchen facilties, a washroom and privacy.

We were privileged to meet the Chair of the local Housing Coalition, Anglican Priest Yme Woedrest. He argued that the municipal, provincial and federal governments and the private sector must work together to improve the situation. And he said that the crisis of homelessness will not be solved unless developers' motives include compassion as well as profit.

Many people in Cranbrook talked to us about a cruel irony. As the real estate boom increases property values at the top of the market, rents at the bottom of the market are pulled up and homelessness increases.

Kootenays Day One - Cranbrook

Cranbrook, February 19, ITINERARY

8:15 AM -- The Refuge Men's Shelter
8:30 AM -- Salvation Army Breakfast Program
9:30 AM -- Food Bank
10:00 AM -- Women's Centre
11:00 AM -- ANKORS AIDS Support Group
11:30 AM -- Salvation Army Lunch Program
1:00 PM -- Community Assistance Program (MEIA)
2:00 PM -- Meeting with Chair of Housing Coalition
3:00 PM -- Meeting with Mayor of Cranbrook
3:45 PM -- Meeting with Member of Parliament

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cranbrook Day one

Our daily report from Cranbrook will be posted tomorrow morning due to technical difficulties. Currently we are in Nelson getting ready for day 2 of Finding Our Way Home. Please visit our blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

BC HAS WORST RECORD IN COUNTRY ON HOMELESSNESS SPENDING:New Democrats hope meeting of provincial housing ministers will wake up Campbell

VANCOUVER – As B.C.’s Rich Coleman sits face to face with fellow housing ministers from across the country today, he stands out from his colleagues with a clear distinction -- his government is dead last when it comes to investing in affordable housing.

"People are dying on the streets of B.C., and our government spends less money than any other province in the country on providing affordable housing,” said New Democrat homelessness critic David Chudnovsky. "I don’t know how our Housing Minister will be able to look his colleagues in the eye.

“At the very least I hope that Minister Coleman will come out of this meeting and tell Gordon Campbell that B.C. holds a shameful record, and that we need an immediate investment in housing to address the crisis in homelessness that his government has created.”

Chudnovsky noted that Wellesley Institute's 2008 national housing report card, released earlier this week, says, "On a per-person basis, spending ranges from a low of $41 in British Columbia to a provincial high of $256 in Saskatchewan."

"This has very real and tragic consequences,” said Chudnovsky. “Yesterday I visited the alley where a homeless man burned himself fatally last weekend trying to keep warm during a cold winter.

“The Campbell government is tragically unaware of the extent of the homelessness crisis,” he pointed out. “Last week Minister Coleman released his estimate of the number of homeless people in B.C, and it was at least one third of the actual count.”

Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan said she hopes the meeting with housing ministers from other provinces will help the Campbell government understand the gravity of the homelessness crisis.

Kwan noted that according to the Wellesley Institute’s report, the B.C. government promised $130 million in 2001 and so far they've only delivered $39 million - $91 million short of their commitment. "Is it a wonder homelessness has grown so dramatically?’ said Kwan.

"Hopefully Minister Coleman will learn from his colleagues that B.C.’s housing efforts are terribly inadequate," Kwan said. "We are a prosperous province with record surpluses, and it's a disgrace to abandon so many people."

Chudnovsky is in the midst of a province-wide consultation on homelessness, meeting with people who are homeless, front line workers, service providers and local officials. His consultation will take him to the Kootenays later this month.

Monday, February 4, 2008


An important new study has confirmed Opposition Critic for Homelessness, David Chudnovsky's, survey results regarding homelessness in BC. It shows the crisis could be three times as bad as BC Minister Responsible for Homelessness Rich Coleman claims.

Our survey counted “a minimum of 10,500 homeless people in BC.” We made it clear that this number was conservative and the reality was likely much worse. Coleman has claimed on several occasions that there are “between 4,500 and 5,500” homeless people in the province.

The report concludes between 8,000 and 15,500 are "absolutely homeless," meaning they are living on the streets, couch surfing or otherwise without shelter. The report says the authors confirmed their figures with "local stakeholders and key informants."

The authors are SFU's Michelle Patterson and Julian Somers, Calgary's Karen McIntosh and Alan Shiell, and UBC's Jim Frankish. The report was prepared at the request of the health ministry's mental health and addictions branch. Other partners and contributors to the report include the provincial health authorities, the Employment and Income Assistance Ministry and Coleman's own Forests and Range Ministry.

The report's number—which includes only people with severe addictions and mental illness -— far exceeds the figure used by Coleman. It does not include the thousands of homeless people in the province who have neither mental health nor addictions challenges.

The report also says that despite impressions that homelessness, mental illness and addiction are urban problems, interviews with front-line workers found the same problems were "highly prevalent in rural settings," again echoing the results of our survey.

For the full report see Housing and Support for Adults with Severe Addictions and/or Mental Illness in British Columbia.