Ellice shelter community meeting

May 13, 2008 at 11:30 pm 6 comments

Last night, the Burnside-Gorge Community Association hosted a community meeting to allow the public to express their views on the rezoning application put forward by the Cool-Aid society for a new $11 million shelter on a City-owned park on Ellice Street. The Times-Colonist reports on the meeting here.

Around 70 people attended the meeting, held at the new Burnside Gorge Community Centre. I had attended an open house a couple of weeks earlier at the Gorge Road Ramada Inn and was interested in seeing if the anger and apprehension expressed by residents and business owners at that meeting would surface here.

After representatives for Cool-Aid presented the proposal, members of the public were allowed to ask questions or state their opinions. Most people commented on the lack of prior consultation, and the desire to see supported housing instead of a shelter in their neighbourhood. I jotted down some of the significant comments:

  • Drug users need jail, not kindness
  • So called “Good Neighbour Agreements” are worthless
  • Family housing is essential
  • A labour pool should be part of the shelter to provide short term employment to labourers.
  • The Ellice Street park should be retained and a shelter built elsewhere (this received loud applause). The same person asked the shelter’s price tag ($11 million) which brought gasps of disbelief from the crowd.
  • One person said the neighbouring businesses will be affected negatively and that police shortfalls will further hinder things.
  • Another said the five-storey shelter was too tall for the neighbourhood and that the shelter should be located elsewhere but only after community consultation.
  • Lack of consultation was brought up again, saying there was no mention of what other sites were considered before the Ellice Street site was announced. This person also mentioned a problematic drug-infested apartment building in the 400 block of Burnside.
  • A popular comment: If the City can buy land for this promised new park, why can’t they buy appropriately zoned land for a shelter elsewhere? Housing should be built before shelters.
  • The lack of residential in the neighbourhood means no eyes on the street.
  • Selkirk developer Mohan Jawl said we’re all responsible for solving homelessness but more community consultation is needed. He agreed with Cool-Aid resource manager Don McTavish that more smaller shelters are needed. He wanted to know when the site was chosen and why and said this location is wrong.
  • Paul Gerrard of the BGCA annonced they were initiating a FOI request to learn what other sites were considered and why they were rejected.
  • The BGCA’s Kate Forster asked if the Streetlink shelter on Store Street is currently double-bunked and over capacity, what guarantee do we have that this new shelter won’t end up over capacity as well. The reply was that the Commission to End Homelessness predicts a drop in homelessness. Kate also said a shelter here will create a snowball effect with other social services and that friends of the shelter users will hang out in the area. Cool-Aid said that many of the people hanging out at the present shelter will not bother making the trek to Ellice Street just to loiter outside.
  • One person said this shelter will negatively affect the nearby day care centre.
  • A BGCA Land Use Committee member wanted to see the documentation involved in the decision making and asked if this was an appropriate process for removing a park from the City’s park inventory. I couldn’t help but think to myself–would a similar process happen if a developer were proposing a condo or hotel on Harris Green Park? One audience member proposed (tongue in cheek, I assume) Beacon Hill Park be removed from the inventory and be designated as a shelter. The BGCA LUC member then said the Traveller’s Inn next door would be a much better shelter (however, I seriously doubt motel owner John Asfar would even consider such a deal. That is what many of the residents at last night’s meeting failed to consider. You can propose any site in the City as a shelter site but unless the owner is willing to part with it for a purpose that won’t help property values it simply won’t happen).

After the the long public comments and questions session wrapped up, Gerrard asked how many of the remaining audience members favoured the rezoning application. I reluctantly raised my hand, thinking that this was like taking your pet to be euthanized; it’s a lousy thing to do but you know it’s the right thing to do in the end and certainly better than the alternative. Only two others voted to support the rezoning. Forty of the remaining attendees voted against the idea of rezoning the park to allow the shelter.

I would be interested in seeing how a community consultation process would develop a shelter plan but I know that this could add of turmoil to the process and might not result in any differing outcome.

Entry filed under: social issues.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Yule Heibel  |  May 14, 2008 at 1:44 am

    “…the Commission to End Homelessness predicts a drop in homelessness”: Huh? On what basis does this prediction rest?

    Isn’t it more likely that we’ll get some of Vancouver’s homeless shipped over here, so that Vancouver Olympics visitors won’t be offended by the sight of them?

    By the way, I think it’s Paul Gerard, not Girard, isn’t it?

  • 2. robertrandall  |  May 14, 2008 at 3:11 am

    Yule, the Action Plan by the Steering Committee of the Mayor’s Task Force states the Year 5 goal will be to have housing for a total of 1550 people. True, this doesn’t mean that even if the plan is a smashing success that there won’t be increasing pressure on the City’s front line institution: the Streetlink shelter, particularly if Victoria sees an influx in homeless from outside the CRD.

    I feel Cool-Aid is being somewhat evasive on this point, seeing as they are very reluctant to turn away clients out to the street

    Incidentally, the architect said that if there is less demand for shelter beds in the future, the spaces can be easily converted to supported housing.

    And yes, I did misspell Paul Gerrard’s name. I’ve corrected it above. Thanks.

  • 3. Cara  |  May 15, 2008 at 10:19 am

    This is a really tough one. Yes it is needed, but I also understand the community’s issue with consultation.

    I would be interested to see a process that allotted a certain amount of shelter beds per community by population, or by area, and then challenged each community to come up with locations. The same could be done with supportive housing. There could be a deadline, and practical limitations – i.e: the landlord must be willing, the renovations or construction needed must be within a reasonable budget, etc After the consultation time expired, any community who had failed to find a place or places would have it mandated by the City.

    I could see that becoming a zoo on one hand, but at least it gives the neighbourhoods a chance to be part of the solution, instead of being on the defensive.

  • 4. joe  |  June 26, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    This is bloody awful. I am a guy who has grown up in Vancouver ,and on the island. I am working with a single income, and working very hard. It’s been so hard to find a place near my work, that I can afford. I finally found a new place ,that is affordable near the selkirk water front, thinking one day the value might go up. Well by the looks of it , I will not be buying it, and losing my $7000 deposit. How do they expect to revive that area now? The land value is going to DROP.

    Wow, its funny, the homeless all across Canada flock to the island for moderate temperatures, and they now get a free place to live. And a hardworking guy who grew up here like me is losing $7000, and a chance to actually own in this ridiculous market.

    Of course I could still buy, and tough it out the next 10 years, and see if the area actually turns to $hit, but I don’t think I want to take that chance. I would be scraping by making payments. I would have less money in my pocket after making a mortgage payment then a drug addict scrapes off the street after a hard day of begging. They would be right next door to me! What a reward for my hardwork! Pretty awesome :) ! Good job Victoria!

    You are right someone has to take responsibility, and take them in. Its funny how it’s not being built Downtown, or locations spreadout across the city. Which would make way more sense. How is a homeless person going to learn how to improve thier life, when they are surrounded by other bums, drugs and dealers?!

    I have known drug addicts in my life, and the ones that survived quit by moving away to the middle of nowhere, far away from other drug users/dealers in thier life, and immersing themselves in a job or a passion.
    Concentrating them all to one area will only make the issue worse. Kind of like how criminals learn to be better criminals in jail. They Don’t have any positive influences in the slammer.

    Well, I guess I can rent forever or move to Sooke, and spend half my life in a car! Yay!
    Thanks Victoria BC! The place for the Rich, and the Bums!


  • 5. Mich Cat  |  September 23, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I think that Ellice Street would be a really great location
    for the new shelter. It is in a semi isolated spot.
    It will address the needs of the homeless community
    when finished. Shelters are not homes but safer than
    the street…

  • 6. robertrandall  |  September 24, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Thanks everyone, for the comments.

    Construction has been hampered by bad soil conditions (blue clay) but the deadline reportedly hasn’t changed.


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