Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Homeless have a right to set up shelter in parks, court rules

Homeless people who sleep outdoors won a big victory in B.C. Supreme Court this week. The court ruled that a Victoria bylaw that made illegal to use a tent or tarp or cardboard for a shelter was unconstitutional.
A lack of services, shelters and housing meant people had to sleep outside, the court found, and saying they couldn't create temporary shelters to avoid freezing ad getting soaked in winter rains violated their Charter right to security and safety. (The basic info is here . The judgment, worth reading, is here.)
Tents and carboard boxes are no real solution for the 1,200 homeless in the capital. But, you would think, the prospect of encampments in parks every night might bring real action. That's what the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and city's mayor called for.
But the province responded with a press release setting out how much how much it spends in housing. It's the kind of thing Gordon Campbell railed against in opposition. The point, he said then, was not how many programs were launched or how money promised - it was whether the problems worsening, or improving.
In the capital, they have been steadily getting worse for 15 years and reached a crisis point. (Note the 15 years; this is not a problem to be laid solely on the Liberals. The NDP started us on the road to this mess.)
Here's the release, as well.

Oct. 15, 2008
Ministry of Housing and Social Development


VICTORIA - More than 20 communities across British Columbia, including Victoria, have joined with the provincial government to recognize Homelessness Action Week.

* Providing supportive housing to low-income British Columbians is a priority for the provincial government.

* Housing Matters BC, the provincial housing strategy, is backed by an annual budget of more than $400 million this year - the highest in the history of British Columbia - more than triple what it was in 2001.

* The Province and the City of Victoria are working together to implement the memorandum of understanding signed in January 2008 to create 170 new and upgraded housing units to reduce homelessness.

* In Victoria, there are approximately 4,600 subsidized housing units with a total annual subsidy of over $18.3 million. Nearly 190 units of housing with support services have been created in Victoria to help break the cycle of homelessness, including 45 units of supportive housing for Our Place Society, and a six-bed addiction recovery facility known as Beacon of Hope.

* In addition, the Province provides $500,000 in funding for the Our Place drop-in centre and $138,000 for the Pacifica drop-in centre.

* The Homeless Outreach Program provides assistance to more than 225 people in the Victoria area, and many more individuals are now receiving assistance from the Victoria Native Friendship Centre through the Aboriginal Homeless Outreach Program.

* The Province invests an additional $25 million per year in the Emergency Shelter Program to allow shelters to be open 24/7, a four-fold budget increase since 2001.

* In Victoria, the Province funds over 140 year-round emergency shelter beds and 30 seasonal winter beds for approximately $4.5 million a year.

* The Mayor's Task Force on Breaking the Cycle of Mental Illness, Addictions and Homelessness report in October 2007 outlined an aggressive target for new units over the next five years.

* Since October 2007, the Province has provided 130 rental supplements to give people the flexibility they need to find a rental unit.

* To protect existing affordable housing, the Province has purchased 30 buildings across B.C. - 1,400 units for $96 million since 2007. Another $90 million will be spent renovating those units so people have safe and secure places to live and create new opportunities for themselves. Five of these buildings are located in Victoria - the Pandora Hotel, Queens Court, Magdelaine Court, Gorge Waterway Apartments and a 13-bed rooming-house.

* Through the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Province has also committed $7.6 million to better integrate existing health services to housing and other social agencies in Victoria.



DPL said...

Our soon to be ex mayor is quite upset about the decision. a suitable number of"interested citizens" were goin on about crime and drugs in beacon Hill park. But that's about average. we used to live acroos the street and some folks raved on about anyone doing much of anything in the park. If a person is homeless and have a tent, it sure beats lying on the sidewalk. People have lived for years in assorted parks for years, especially Beacon Hill Park. If the " interested people" don't like the fact that some folks are homeless, try leaning on the City Council and the provincial government for more housing in this town

Anonymous said...

"* The Province invests an additional $25 million per year in the Emergency Shelter Program to allow shelters to be open 24/7, a four-fold budget increase since 2001." That money alone would be enough to reinstitute welfare support for 200 people for a full year!!!! And the Liberals are BRAGGING they spend that much on temporary cold weather shelters. That's IDEOLOGY for you. The BC Liberals' slashing of social supports has been one of the worst examples of penny-wise Conservativism in the province's history.

Patrick said...

What great timing on the BC Supreme Court ruling - right in the middle of Homelessness Action Week! ( There must be some judges out there who are sick and tired like the rest of us.