Pandora’s Box

August 21, 2008 at 11:17 pm 6 comments

A Times-Colonist reporter phoned me this afternoon wanting to know what Downtown residents felt about the Our Place shelter now that it’s had a few weeks to settle into its new neighbourhood. Apparently the neighbouring businesses are upset at the level of social disorder on the block.

I explained to him that while the DRA supports the shelter concept, some our members are frustrated with the social disorder in the 1000 block Pandora. Most of us appreciate the necessity of a shelter, in particular the myriad of services it provides, from hot showers and laundry to meals and counselling services. But many of us are asking: at what price do these services get delivered? Pandora Street, with its broad avenue bisected by a wide public green space, is a primary pedestrian corridor for Fernwood residents coming into the Downtown core. Some feel like they are “running the gauntlet” simply by coming into town.

The problem often isn’t the shelter users, it includes the hangers-on. Friends and associates of Our Place “clients”, some of whom are involved in the drug trade, a situation some of us feel will be exacerbated if a proposed needle exchange moves in next door.

So what’s the solution? This is what I struggled with as I talked to the reporter. We can’t move the shelter. We can’t arrest them for merely lingering on streetcorners. Simply put, we can do the following:

– Spread the facilities around the city. Don’t create a social ghetto.

– Be aggressive when it comes to giving the homeless opportunities to improve their lives. Discourage charities that sustain anti-social lifestyles. The primary goal is to re-integrate them into society.

– The worst of the worst must be taken out of their environment. These are people suffering from extreme mental illness and addiction issues. For many of these “dual diagnosis” individuals institutional treatment is the most humane gift we can give them.

– Justice reform (including Community Courts) must be implemented so that those that prey on others and deserve punishment actually get it.

– Specifically dealing with Harris Green, the City could offer incentives so that present commercial operations stay and new retail and residential opportunities become more attractive. This could include giving developers a tax holiday or bonus density in return for bringing life into this half-empty block.

That’s just a start. There’s a lot more we could do but the most important thing is not allowing conditions on Pandora Street get worse.

Entry filed under: Harris Green, media, needle exhange, Our Place.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. davin  |  August 22, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Some good stuff there Robert.

    I don’t know what category of feedback this fits into, but as a resident of the 1000 block of Pandora, I am sometimes one of the first people to see the fights that erupt between drug dealers and randoms, etc as I come out of my home. I also see people shooting up in the down-ramp to our parking garage now, and recently came home to a front door that was covered in someone’s blood. Quite often it seems the building management can’t decide if it is better to keep our lobby lights off at night so people wont hang out and shoot up there due to lack of light, or if lack of light would increase the risk of being jumped in front of our own home.

    I don’t care about people yelling or sitting around. The words directed at me can be provocative, but I can brush those off easily enough. This all might seem like an annoyance to those who don’t live directly in it, but there are some very real safety concerns that I am seeing which need to be addressed. I also see that we’re not really responding to it – instead, we continue to react. The most we seem to be able to do is phone the police, but to what end?

    I don’t think Mr. Green would be impressed.

  • 2. robertrandall  |  August 22, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    General crime rule: The police tell me to call them if you see a crime being committed–especially if you feel they have a good chance of catching the person in action. Even if they don’t nab the criminal the stats are helpful in tracking crime trends. Remember, even if the cops can’t attend (calls are prioritized) it makes a compelling argument for police amalgamation.

    You seem to have a rational view of the situation. It’s frustrating for us all, I know. Please keep me informed of the ongoing Pandora situation.

  • 3. Yule Heibel  |  August 24, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Having to put up with those levels of social disorder is another example of “downloading” or “off-loading” by senior levels of government to municipalities, which in turn (perhaps because they can’t meet the demand) download to us, individual citizens.

    I really feel that our tolerance is being exploited, too. But I can’t tolerate crime or abject conditions on our streets, or that addicts should be allowed to “choose” to destroy their brains with chemicals you don’t even dare flush down the drain because of the harm they can do to the environment.

    To protect the environment I’m supposed to eschew plastic bags at the grocery store, yet I’m supposed to be non-judgmental about someone consuming (and buying and selling) the most harmful sorts of drugs? What kind of upside-down world is this?

    The abstraction of that plastic bag means zip to me compared to human blood on the streets and chemically wasted brains. I’m old-fashioned that way. But I bet it’ll be cooler sooner to dis people who still “use” plastic at the store than to dis those who buy and sell and *use* “street” drugs.

  • 4. robertrandall  |  August 24, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    You are spot on with the government downloading problem.

    And today’s mind-destroying drugs…these are not the mostly benign substances of decades past and we cannot treat those suffering their effects using the same methods used in treating heroin addicts. They are permanently frying their brains and we can’t wait for a convenient time to break the cycle. That’s why the addiction services offered on Pandora St. and elsewhere must be wide-ranging and sustainably funded. There simply is no other alternative.

  • 5. davin  |  August 25, 2008 at 11:16 am

    That’s a good point about calling the police for tracking purposes. I had not thought of that, and perhaps the (more complete) information will help them make some decisions that will positively effect the area.

  • 6. davin  |  August 25, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Also: Yule – that is a compelling way of putting the paradox of what is socially acceptable in urban living. Speaking of plastic bags – it is inevitable that you wind up with some even though we do our best not to. Where can we recycle these in the downtown core? Seems like there should be a recycle bin for them in each building.


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