Journalist Daphne Bramham has written extensively and eloquently on homelessness. In a February column in the Vancouver Sun, she spoke to Bill MacEwan, the former head of psychiatry at St. Paul’s Hospital.
With the Building Community Society, McEwan is lobbying the province on a number of initiatives, including a 20-bed, hospital-based Welcome Centre where people would be assessed and stabilized.
“It’s housing plus treatment, not abandonment. Addictions treatment would include harm-reduction measures, including access to pharmaceutical drugs to replace illicit ones. But the goal is to reduce or eliminate the dependence on drugs beyond what’s needed to address mental health issues.”
There are two epidemics stalking BC right now: Covid-19 and an opioid crisis that rages on, seemingly unchecked, without the necessary addiction treatment beds or mental health care services.
There are vaccines that will see us out of Covid but no province-wide model with political will, or enough public support and funding to make even a dent in the second.
There are many units and varying types of social housing already in Kitsilano that are embraced and supported by the community because their scale and number of residents makes sense in the context of the neighbourhood and there are appropriate supports in place where they are needed.
Ensure any new supportive housing is relevant and appropriate. This is how best to position people for success. Why not something of a similar scale for this part of Kitsilano?
Single mums with small children are probably the most financially challenged demographic in the city. And they bear a shattering amount of responsibility.
Feedback on this current proposal has emphasized over and over that the site is bang in the juncture of a number of schools, daycares and across the street from a much-used playground. There are literally kids everywhere.
The District of North Vancouver has just approved a 60-unit, five-storey supportive housing project on a district-owned parking lot at Lloyd Avenue for women and their families who are facing homelessness.
Rents in the building will be either at shelter rates or geared to household income. The housing will have 24/7 staffing from RainCity Housing and Support Society for programming and support.
The North Shore News quoted Coun. Megan Curren who said she was proud to support a project that would be a step toward addressing some of the most acute housing needs for marginalized women.
“Women and gender-diverse people face profound violence on the streets and in public systems and are regularly separated from their children because of their housing status and exposure to violence. Despite this, housing policy rarely focuses on their realities, resulting in an acute lack of women-only, trauma-informed housing services,” she said. “I feel that we can help address this shameful reality by advancing this supportive project.”
This part of Kitsilano has community centres, grocery stores, excellent public schools and loads of green spaces. It is an ideal location for the same type of development that North Van Council has unanimously just approved for Lloyd Avenue. We believe there would be nearly universal support in our neighbourhood.
But will BC Housing listen?