The BC Housing plan to house 140 homeless and at risk of homeless individuals in a 12-storey tower at West 8th and Arbutus is not without precedent. In May 2013, the City of Vancouver and BC Housing opened Marguerite Ford Apartments at 215 West 2nd Avenue in the Olympic Village, a 147-unit complex almost identical to that which is planned for our neighbourhood.
So what happened? According to a Vancouver Courier story in 2014, which is still available here via Vancouver is Awesome, the project generated 729 calls to the Vancouver Police department in its first 16 months of operation. The calls involved fights, drugs, weapons, threats, break-ins, stolen property, frauds, suicide attempts, domestic disputes, missing persons, abandoned 911 calls, and assisting paramedics and firefighters.
And according to then city manager Penny Ballem, the reason was too many homeless people with mental health and addictions issues were moved into Marguerite Ford too quickly and didn’t get the support they needed.
In order to succeed, any housing project for people suffering from addictions or mental illness must have total wrap-around supports including on-site health care and counselling. According to BC Housing, that won’t be the case for the 8th and Arbutus project. Guaranteed supports are limited to one meal a day, laundry facilities, and 2 or 3 on-site staff who will direct residents to opportunities for counselling and assistance in the community.
And how will the residents for the 8th and Arbutus project be selected? We don’t know. But as the Courier article points out, back in 2011, the city implemented a what became known as the 50-30-20 policy; 50 per cent of tenants must be from the street or a shelter, 30 per cent from single-room occupancy hotels, and 20 per cent at risk of homelessness, including people discharged from hospitals and jails.
Is this policy still in effect? Again, we don’t know. But the evasiveness of BC Housing and City officials working on this project is disturbing. Go to Be Heard, raise your voice and demand our elected officials come clean on this project.