Monday, March 31, 2008

The North -- Day One Prince George

It was a glorious and sunny day in Prince George. We could almost feel spring coming on.

A highlight of the day was our time at the Native Friendship Centre. Our hosts were thoughtful and articulate, and we thought that rather than speak for them, we would publish some of what they had to say:

"Children shouldn't grow up in emergency shelters. And the elderly shouldn't die in them."

"Would you like to spend the night on a mat on the floor of a dining room?"

"You're more apt to get dollars for emergency shelters. But we have to do that other piece -- homes."

"It's not just shelter and it's not just placement. Nobody is independent. They need support to be successful."

"We need more affordable, safe, clean housing and the supports that go along with them."

"We have a few more resources but the nnumber of homeless people keeps increasing. The situation with affordable housing is way worse."

When asked what people need to help them get out of the situation of homelessness, one representative said, "We have to teach them to dream again."

At AWAWC we were reminded of something that we have been told before in other towns on the "Finding Our Way Home" tour. There is a problem for young people as they transition between Ministry of Children and Families support to adulthood. Often they can feel left on their own to cope with the same challenges they had only a few days before when they were 18 and were considered children. When we plan our housing strategy we must take into account and accomodate this difficult transition time.

At Elizabeth Fry we heard about succesful housing developments that integrate market rents, slightly less than market rents and non-market rents -- all tied to 30% of a resident's income.

We would also like to thank the St. Vincent de Paul Society for letting us share their lunch time program and for the incredibly warm and inviting atmosphere they have built.

The North -- Day One Prince George

Itinerary --

10:00 AM - Association for Women Advocating for Women
11:00 AM - Connections Youth Emergency Shelter
12:00 Noon - St. Vincent de Paul - Lunch Program
1:00 PM - Prince George Native Friendship Centre
3:00 - Elizabeth Fry Society

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day 2-Revelstoke

Our second day in Revelstoke was a clear lesson in the depth of the housing and homelessness crisis that exists in BC’s smaller communities.

We visited with a young woman who lives in a shack that has no running water, no electricity, no plumbing and is heated by a wood stove which she also uses for cooking. Her home is comparable to many places I have seen in Townships in South Africa. For this, she and her husband pay $200 per month. She told us they will move at the end of the month because there are others who will pay more for the shack, and the landlords are considering making the structure into a greenhouse – which would require renovations to make it appropriate for plants.

We also met a woman who lives in a small motel room. It has a microwave and a bar fridge. The rent is $650 a month. In Revelstoke! She’s moving to Kelowna to share a one bedroom apartment with a friend.

The situation is so bad that employers complained to us they are having real trouble finding employees in the service industry (hotels, fast food restaurants etc.) because there is nowhere for these people to live. We were told the situation is worse in Radium Hot Springs and Invermere.

The day finished with a very productive discussion that brought together 3 city councilors and the local MLA, Norm MacDonald.

Thanks to all of the people in Revelstoke who helped make our time there so stimulating and useful.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Revelstoke Day One -- March 18, 2008

Tonight we met with a terrific grass roots Revelstoke organisation called Renters' Voice. It brings together people who are homeless, people who are at immediate risk of being homeless and community supporters. A number of those present shared stories about their situations.

One woman is facing eviction, has a child who is very ill and has been searching for appropriate accomodation for nine months but can't find anything. She describes herself as being on edge and desperate.

A man told us about being homeless. He has somewhere to stay only because a generous friend allows him to sleep in the basement near her furnace and water heater. She also provides him with support in stabilizing his health issues. He fears he will be forced to move to a small rural town without the medical and social supports he needs. He said he found a place to live today, only he'll have to learn to live without eating because the rent is so high.

A couple reported that their manufactured home park (trailer park) is facing mass eviction because it has been sold and there are plans to build condos. They cannot move their trailer and are worried they will be homeless.

Another woman has been threatened with eviction numerous times and has gone to arbitration under the Residential Tenancy Act four times. So far she has been successful in keeping her apartment but she worries she may have to leave.

All of this is happening in the context of a town with virtually no vacancy rate and a high end construction boom. This fits the pattern of many communities we have visited. When real estate prices dramatically escalate, homelessness results.

We want to thank the courageous people who took the time to tell us their stories tonight.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

David Chudnovsky's Statment in the Legislature on the Homelessness Count

(Standing Order 25B)


D. Chudnovsky: Yesterday in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and a number of other centres, hundreds of volunteers counted people who are homeless in our communities. I was privileged to be one of those volunteers.

There are two reasons why the homeless count is a vital exercise. First, we need to know the breadth and depth of the crisis so that we can develop appropriate policies and legislation to improve the situation. Second, we owe it to every one of the thousands of people in our province who are homeless to notice them — to acknowledge them, to tell them that in at least this small way they matter — and to remind everyone that the homeless people of B.C. are not an alien species from another planet. They are our sons and our daughters, our brothers and sisters. They are us.

The preliminary results will be available in a few weeks, but there are already indications the numbers will be dramatically higher than three years ago when the last counts were done.

I want to thank the volunteers who took the time to meet, speak with and count their neighbours who are homeless. I want to thank the caregivers and service providers who every day do their best to provide hope and support in a circumstance that is at present very bleak.

Most of all, I want to thank those thousands of British Columbians who are homeless for their courage, for their resilience and especially for their patience in the face of a crisis which every day challenges them and shames and demeans the rest of us.

I ask every MLA to commit today and every day to the eradication of homelessness in British Columbia. It's a crisis we can solve. It's a crisis we must solve.