'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

October 13, 2011

A modest proposal to end homelessness in Canada

Chain The Dogma       October 13, 2011

A modest proposal to end homelessness in Canada

by Perry Bulwer

Prime Minister Stephen Harper likes to boast that he represents a majority of Canadians and that "... Canadians are essentially conservative people."  It is a hubristic boast based on our flawed electoral system that gave him a majority government for the first time, but with only 61 percent of Canadians bothering to vote, and just 40 percent of them supporting Harper, he certainly does not represent a majority of Canadians.  Immediately after the election he declared,  "We must be the government of all Canadians, including those that did not vote for us", which would be most of them. Yet, Harper's first order of business with his new parliamentary majority is aimed at the unfounded concerns of a minority of Canadians, his conservative constituency. Relying on demagoguery and propaganda, Harper campaigned on promises to increase efforts to combat crime, including emulating failed U.S. programs such as mandatory sentencing and prison expansions, despite the fact that crime has been steadily decreasing for the past 20 years in Canada.

Harper doesn't like facts that don't support his ideological agenda, so he simply ignores the statistics of falling crime,  just like he ignores the facts of poverty in Canada. Four million people live in poverty in one of the richest countries in the world.  One million Canadian children, one out of seven, live in poverty. There are as many as 300,000 homeless citizens in Canada, and probably many more. Moreover, attempts to count them usually leave out those at risk of homelessness, such as those living in sub-standard housing or who disproportionally pay anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of their gross household income on housing. I say "attempts to count them" because Canada does not keep national statistics on homelessness, which the UN has criticized it for. Canada is the only G8 country that does not have a national housing strategy. Furthermore, Harper's government recently refused to accept the main recommendation of a Parliamentary committee to develop and implement a poverty reduction plan,  even though such a plan would cost society far less than the status quo.

Therefore, since Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to take any significant step to reduce poverty and homelessness in Canada, but is willing to enact unnecessary or unjust laws and build more prison space for an increased prison population put there by those laws, I propose that the homeless commit one of the victimless crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences. They should then immediately turn themselves in and admit guilt, which will provide them with free room and board for the length of their sentence. Once that is complete they simply need to disobey the conditions of their release, or recommit the crime, if they are still in need of housing.

That's the perfect, final solution to end homelessness in Canada, housing them in all the new prison cells Harper is building. All it will cost the homeless is their freedom, but poverty and homelessness is a prison of a different kind, so loss of freedom in exchange for a dry bed and two hot meals a day may be preferable to dying a slow death on the street or in sub-standard housing. And depending on the prison, they will have access to recreational areas with TVs and games, exercise facilities or yards, educational opportunities and programs in a library, a medical clinic or hospital, various employment opportunities, counselling and religious services, and a visitor's area for entertaining guests. It is the ultimate in supportive housing.

But what will that type of 'supportive housing' cost tax payers? Stephen Harper, being a trained economist, should know that it is far more than it would cost to provide that homeless person with a decent home in the first place. Here are some numbers to put this all in perspective. Since Harper came to power in 2006, the cost of the prison system has risen 86 percent.  The cost per inmate per year is now around $120,000.  A homeless person costs society much less than that, but much more than if they were provided housing and intervention services, because of the disproportionate demand they place on emergency shelters and police, ambulance, emergency room and similar services, including the court system. Those costs can be around $42,000 for a homeless person in Calgary, as reported in a study by the National Council of Welfare (NCW), or as much as $55,000 per person per year in British Columbia, as cited in a report on homelessness by that province's Auditor-general.  On the other hand, that same B.C. report put the cost of supportive housing and social services for one homeless person at $37,000, while the NCW report says that those costs would only be between $13,000 and $18,000.

No matter which figures you use, providing decent housing for the homeless saves society around $20,000 for each person provided a home, and is around $100,000 cheaper than housing that person in prison. But beyond the financial costs, once the homeless and near-homeless are provided stable housing and food security, many are then able to turn the energy they expended on daily survival to more productive activities that will benefit themselves and their communities. While I understand that there are some programs and projects that are slowly tackling this issue, those efforts are inadequate for solving the problem. What I don't understand is why the federal and provincial governments do not make ending homelessness their top priority. I think it is safe to assume that all politicians in this country live in comfortable homes, while many of their constituents do not. If, as they like to brag, they are public servants, then why are they not fighting like hell to make sure that not one single Canadian is forced to live on the street or in sub-standard housing for one more night, let alone one more month or year? Homelessness across this country could be ended within a year or two if the same resolve and resources were poured into solving the issue as were spent for political summit meetings and sports events. Here's another less modest proposal than my 'prisons for the homeless' suggestion.

In 2010, the Federal government wasted over $800 million for two international summit meetings that accomplished nothing. Much of that cost was to protect the politicians from the citizens they supposedly serve.  It now intends on wasting at least $2.2 billion on prison expansion and other costs associated with Harper's new crime bill.  The federal government is also spending nearly $1 billion on removing asbestos from Harper's workplace and home.  That is $4 billion Harper's government has recently spent or will spend unnecessarily, at least when there are more urgent priorities. In British Columbia, the government recently spent $6 billion on the Olympics.  It has also spent over $500 million to renovate BC Place, a sports stadium. Neither the 2010 Olympics  nor the BC Place renovations will provide the economic benefits promised by politicians. In total, that is $6.5 billion that the B.C. government spent recently on projects that benefit only certain segments of society, but certainly not the poor. Together, these few projects I've mentioned cost over $10 billion. How far would that amount go towards ending homelessness within a year or two?

I am not a housing expert nor have I studied any research on homelessness and how to end it. My perspective on this issue is from the street level and my suggestions are simplistic, but that may be why they could work. We don't need anymore discussions, conferences, promises and planning, we just need action, now. I recently saw an advertisement for a used three bedroom mobile home for less than $30,000. That got me thinking. Since the government has access to any land it wants and has the buying power to gain savings through mass purchases, it could easily set up ready to live in mobile or container home  parks. If we take $30 thousand as the average yearly cost to society for each homeless person, and use that amount as the cost for each mobile or container home to house them, the $10.5 billion dollars detailed above would have bought 350,000 homes. The estimate I cited above is that there are around 300,000 homeless people, so my proposal would actually end homelessness in Canada, though the problem of those living in sub-standard housing would still need to be addressed.

The land for these new parks could either be crown land, so free, or expropriated land, which would have associated costs. However, the one time costs for the land and new mobile or container homes, as well as any ongoing costs for services such as sewer, water and electricity, could be covered by the housing allowance people on social assistance receive, which in the case of B.C. is $375 a month. If the government finds that amount insufficient for covering its expenses then it could simply raise that amount it provides for housing support. The B.C. government is not currently willing to raise that amount for the benefit of the poor, even though it is impossible to find adequate rental accommodations anywhere in the province for that price. However, if it were to become the landlord for these new homes for the homeless, perhaps it would wake up to how ridiculously low the housing support is.

Okay, I realize this is a simplistic solution, but if governments can come up with money for useless meetings and games during times of financial instability, why can't it come up with the same amount of money to house destitute citizens? When the roof on B.C. Place began to leak after a storm and needed replacing to protect sports fans from getting wet, the government somehow quickly found the money to renovate it, yet there is no money to provide a permanent roof for citizens sleeping on the street? There is plenty of money to remove asbestos from Stephen Harper's home and work place, to ensure that he and his parliamentary colleagues have a safe environment to work and live in, yet there is no money to ensure that the homeless have a safe, secure environment to live in? Governments frequently claim they have to pay top bureaucrats and CEOs of crown corporations huge salaries, benefits and bonuses because of their specialized expertise. So why can't those experts come up with solutions to quickly end homelessness? With no expertise or special knowledge, I came up with my solution in no time at all, and the government doesn't even need to pay me for the advice. At least under my modest proposal, the homeless will not have to live in Harper's prisons and they won't have to eat children to survive.


  1. Auditor general rips into Harper government's summit spending


    OTTAWA — The federal auditor general ratcheted up his criticism Wednesday of the Harper government's spending on the G8 and G20 summits, detailing serious concerns about broken rules, potentially misleading expenditure requests and ministers hand-picking projects to receive funding.

    Speaking to the House of Commons public accounts committee about his spring report, interim auditor general John Wiersema scolded the Conservative government for a "one-of-a-kind" situation unlike anything he has ever seen in his 33 years working in the AG's office.

    Wiersema repeated many of the concerns first raised in the AG's June report, but explained in much greater detail the problems his office uncovered with the government's management and fiscal oversight of G8 and G20 spending.

    The government rushed through spending on the June 2010 G8 and G20 summits without proper documentation or explanation to parliamentarians about how the cash would be spent, he said.

    He said government ignored normal protocols when approving infrastructure projects for the G8 summit in the riding of Tory minister Tony Clement — now Treasury Board president — bypassing public servants who generally determine what projects receive funding.

    "Rules were broken," Wiersema told reporters following the committee meeting. "Lawyers could have an interesting debate as to whether any laws were broken."

    The interim AG said he's "very concerned" that no government documents exist to explain how the Conservatives selected 32 municipal projects in Clement's Parry Sound-Muskoka riding that were included in a $50 million G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund.

    "Supporting documentation is important for transparency and accountability," he said.

    The $50 million was spent in the lead-up to the summit on a variety of projects ranging from the construction of a gazebo, public washrooms and sidewalk upgrades many kilometres from the G8 event site in Huntsville.

    Public servants generally would have a say in which government projects should receive funding, Wiersema told the committee. But in the case of the G8 summit, then-infrastructure minister John Baird approved the funding based on the advice of Clement.

    "The normal process would be that ministers would not be involved in that level of detail of project selection. That would be the work of the public service," he added.

    Just as troubling for Wiersema is that when government sought parliamentary approval for the spending, it folded the $50 million into an $83-million infrastructure fund that MPs were told was intended to reduce border congestion. Clement's riding isn't near the border.

    "It's not right," Wiersema said.

    He also recounted other details of his June report, which noted that parliamentarians were left in the dark on the total costs of hosting the G8 summit in Hunstville, Ont., and the G20 summit in Toronto in June 2010. Members of Parliament eventually approved $1.1 billion in spending for summits that were likely to cost only $664 million.

    A short time-frame to prepare for the summits had departments scrambling together budgets, he noted.

    "Questions of expediency should not trump transparency," he said.

    read the rest at:


  2. Don’t waste billions on ‘tough-on-crime’

    By Bruce Foster and Bruce Ravelli - professors at the Mount Royal University Department of Sociology and Anthropology

    National Post October 14, 2011

    On the heels of their majority victory, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to pass an omnibus crime bill. Said bill is just the beginning of an ambitious war on crime that will radically change significant aspects of the country’s Criminal Code and justice system. While some aspects of the bill may have merit, on balance, it’s the wrong approach, at the wrong time, pursued for the wrong reasons.

    Dubbed the “Safe Streets and Communities Act,” Bill C-10 will no doubt appeal to those who view the justice system as “soft on crime,” even though the facts suggest most of the changes are unnecessary or unwarranted. The bill bundles a number of crime-related initiatives including the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences for weapon and drug-related convictions, and expanding the list of offences where conditional sentences (such as house arrest) would not apply.

    Meanwhile, crime rates in Canada are at the lowest since 1973, and longer prison sentences, increasing the number and capacity of prisons, and mandatory minimum sentences have shown to be ineffective in numerous jurisdictions around the world. However, according to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s spokesperson, the “Tories don’t use these statistics as an excuse not to get tough on criminals.”

    The compelling questions then should be: Why, in the face of years of solid statistical evidence, do the Conservatives insist on legislating such expensive changes? And, why is the government willing to spend billions to “fix” crime rates that are already moving in the right direction? No one is arguing that criminals should not be held accountable. However, taxpayers will be required to contribute to these substantial and costly changes. Provinces (not the federal government) will be responsible for the administration of this bill in a system already plagued with long court delays and cost over-runs.

    Canada’s Criminal Code is already thick with laws that have lengthy sentences, yet people commit crimes every day. What our laws do not address are the root causes of crime, and the under-reporting of these crimes. For example, there is nothing in Bill C-10 that will assist an abused spouse to leave their relationship, nothing to support the child who is abused by their parent, nothing to address alleged systemic racism in the criminal justice system, nothing to address why people choose to not report their victimization, nothing to deter white collar crime.

    When we hear the government is “getting tough on crime”, we want to believe the result will help improve the overall safety and wellbeing of Canadians. However, if we were to review the research (much of which was funded by the Government of Canada), we would understand that a more sound approach would be to take the billions of dollars earmarked for this bill and spend it on prevention and support programs. Every dollar wasted on ineffective law-and-order measures is money that could have been spent addressing the social and economic forces that drive the desperate into lives of crime.

    The Conservative government is operating under the erroneous assumption that putting more people in jail for longer will help them learn a lesson. This may be true. However, the lesson they learn will be much different than the lesson the government intends. The informal training in prisons includes how to be an addict and manufacture drugs, how to be violent and how to avoid getting caught after their eventual release.

    The government’s resources are not infinite. Once a tax dollar is spent, it’s gone. Why spend it on prisons when we can spend it on people?


  3. Texas conservatives reject Harper's crime plan

    By Terry Milewski, CBC News Oct 17, 2011

    Conservatives in the United States' toughest crime-fighting jurisdiction — Texas — say the Harper government's crime strategy won't work.

    "You will spend billions and billions and billions on locking people up," says Judge John Creuzot of the Dallas County Court. "And there will come a point in time where the public says, 'Enough!' And you'll wind up letting them out."

    Adds Representative Jerry Madden, a conservative Republican who heads the Texas House Committee on Corrections, "It's a very expensive thing to build new prisons and, if you build 'em, I guarantee you they will come. They'll be filled, OK? Because people will send them there.

    "But, if you don't build 'em, they will come up with very creative things to do that keep the community safe and yet still do the incarceration necessary."

    These comments are in line with a coalition of experts in Washington, D.C., who attacked the Harper government's omnibus crime package, Bill C-10, in a statement Monday.

    "Republican governors and state legislators in such states of Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio are repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing opportunities for effective community supervision, and funding drug treatment because they know it will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs," said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute.

    "If passed, C-10 will take Canadian justice policies 180 degrees in the wrong direction, and Canadian citizens will bear the costs."

    A state with a record
    On a recent trip to Texas, an array of conservative voices told CBC News that Texas tried what Canada plans to do – and it failed.

    As recently as 2004, Texas had the highest incarceration rate in the world, with fully one in 20 of its adult residents behind bars or on parole or probation. The Lone Star state still has the death penalty, with more than 300 prisoners on death row today. But for three decades, as crime rates fell all over the U.S., the rate in Texas fell at only half the national average.

    That didn't change the policy — but its cost did.

    Faced with a budget crisis in 2005, the Texas statehouse was handed an estimate of $2 billion to build new prisons for a predicted influx of new prisoners.

    They told Madden to find a way out. He and his committee dug into the facts. Did all those new prisoners really need to go to jail? And did all of those already behind bars really need to be there?

    Madden's answer was, no. He found that Texas had diverted money from treatment and probation services to building prisons. But sending people to prison was costing 10 times as much as putting them on probation, on parole, or in treatment.

    "It was kinda silly, what we were doing," says Madden. Then, he discovered that drug treatment wasn't just cheaper — it cut crime much more effectively than prison.

    That was the moment, he says, when he knew: "My colleagues are gonna understand this. The public is gonna understand this.…The public will be safer and we will spend less money!"

    His colleagues agreed. Texas just said no to the new prisons.

    Instead, over the next few years, it spent a fraction of the $2 billion those prisons would have cost — about $300 million — to beef up drug treatment programs, mental health centres, probation services and community supervision for prisoners out on parole.

    It worked. Costs fell and crime fell, too. Now, word of the Canadian government's crime plan is filtering down to Texas and it's getting bad reviews.

    Marc Levin, a lawyer with an anti-tax group called Right on Crime, argues that building more prisons is a waste of taxpayers' money.

    read the rest at:


  4. Conservative crime bill takes a ‘flawed approach,’ critics say

    By Tobi Cohen Postmedia News Oct 19, 2011

    OTTAWA — Critics and proponents of the controversial omnibus Conservative crime bill traded barbs in the House of Commons Tuesday as the Tories sought to again fast-track debate on the proposed legislation that seeks, among other things, mandatory minimum sentences for child sex offences and drug trafficking and an end to pardons for serious violent and repeat offenders.

    Shortly after MPs grilled victims, corrections workers and legal experts during a Commons committee hearing, a reformed convict arrived on Parliament Hill to speak about how Bill C-10 will impede his ability to integrate into society and provide a better future for his two young children by denying him a pardon.


    Until the age of 24, he was in and out of jail at least seven times for armed robbery, assault with a weapon and escaping lawful custody, until he finally got involved in a rehabilitation program that taught him about parenting, budgeting and first aid.

    He earned his high school diploma, got a driver’s licence and became a skilled tradesman. Yet any hope of landing his dream job with Manitoba Hydro will be dashed if he can’t obtain a pardon.

    “You have to have a good clean record to go out in the middle of nowhere and fix a hydro pole. I don’t know why but you do,” he said.

    “It feels like the government is about to throw me under the omnibus bus.”

    Jean-Claude Bernheim of the Manitoba John Howard Society also noted that ex-cons in Quebec are further penalized as they cannot legally obtain house, tenant or car insurance if they have a criminal record.


    The bill was fast-tracked through second reading after the Conservatives voted to limit debate. On Tuesday, the government was accused of doing the same thing during a Commons committee hearing to review the bill and hear from stakeholders.

    Eric Gottardi, a Vancouver-based defence lawyer and Crown prosecutor representing the Canadian Bar Association, expressed “disappointment” at being given just five minutes to speak about “such a complicated and important piece of legislation.”

    He also called it “undemocratic” that the government would combine so many bills into one, especially since some elements actually had never before been debated.

    “In addition to our concerns about process, we believe that the substance of this legislation will ultimately be self-defeating and counter-productive if the goal is to enhance public safety,” he argued.

    “The bill takes a flawed approach to dealing with offenders at all stages of their interaction with the criminal justice system, from their arrest through to trial, to their placement in and treatment by correctional institutions, to their inevitable reintegration back into society.”

    Gottardi said the legislation marks a “profound shift” from a system that “prioritizes public safety through individualized sentencing, rehabilitation and reintegration, to one that puts punishment and vengeance first.”

    Meanwhile, John Howard Society executive director Catherine Latimer raised the issue of prison overcrowding due to minimum mandatory sentences and the elimination of house arrest and also took issue with several new provisions that could affect the charter rights of young offenders.

    She argued that adding the public’s confidence in the administration of justice as grounds for detaining young people before their trial could violate their right to reasonable bail. Removing the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for determining whether a youth should receive an adult sentence, she added, flies in the face of precedent set by the Supreme Court of Canada.

    Apart from Conservative MPs who, in some instances, harangued contrary witnesses — even calling their credentials into question — proponents of the legislation seemed to be in the minority Tuesday.

    read the rest of the article at:


  5. Business Plan Oversight for Bailout Games Still Secret

    By Bob Mackin, TheTyee.ca October 25, 2011

    The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics ended more than 18 months ago. VANOC's last official public financial statement was finished almost a year ago.
    But secrecy still flourishes around the Bailout Games, so named by The Tyee after cash-strapped VANOC needed more money from taxpayers to put on the Games and taxpayers kept key sponsors (like General Motors) afloat.

    A four-and-a-half-year-old report examining the second version of the Games' business plan by the finance ministry's Internal Audit and Advisory Services branch sheds some new light on the the VANOC financial blueprint. But several key sections were censored. IAAS executive director David Fairbotham's May 14, 2007 report to the B.C. Winter Games Secretariat, obtained by The Tyee under Freedom of Information, is generally favourable, though it does pinpoint numerous risks and deficiencies that would eventually materialize when the global economic boom went bust. ...
    The redacted version provided The Tyee did not show commentary by IAAS about a key VANOC assumption: there would be no recession before or during the Games. Despite the Games being so reliant on advertising dollars, VANOC built the business plan on a foundation assuming no recession of any size would happen. When recessions hit, the standard first casualty is the advertising budget.

    Not only was VANOC faced with declining revenues by the recession that came in 2008, but expenses suddenly escalated. The credit crunch forced many bidders for supply contracts to withdraw. Suddenly it became a seller's market and VANOC had to pay higher prices for goods and services. When the business plan was presented to media on May 8, 2007, VANOC CEO John Furlong bluntly said the $1.63 billion operating budget was funded by four main sources: sponsorships, tickets, souvenirs and broadcast contracts.

    "Entirely by the private sector, it is not funded by the taxpayers," Furlong proclaimed. The IAAS report reveals that VANOC had its hand out, actively campaigning for more taxpayer funding behind closed doors. It asked the B.C. and federal governments for an additional $10 million each to fund the Paralympics. It wanted $20 million from the federal government for the opening ceremony.


    Before B.C. won the bid for the Games in 2003, Premier Gordon Campbell promised the IOC that taxpayers of this province would be the ultimate guarantor for any VANOC losses. Campbell created the B.C. Winter Games Secretariat and charged it with overseeing the $600 million B.C. contribution for venues, Paralympics, medical services, security, live sites, endowments and legacies. A July 9, 2010 report showed government spending ballooned to $925 million.

    The extra involvement by government sparked the IOC to make an historic bailout of its own, offering $22 million in Aug. 2009 after failing to sign the promised 10th and 11th global sponsors. VANOC eventually revealed in its week-before-Christmas report last year that it received $74.4 million from the feds and $113.4 million from the province to balance its $1.884 billion operations budget. Those payments did not include the sponsorships sold to Crown corporations like BC Hydro, B.C. Lottery Corporation, ICBC and Canada Post. Individual contract revenue was not disclosed by VANOC and it's unlikely taxpayers will ever get an independent report card on how their money was spent. ...

    read the full article at:

  6. Olympic economic boost smaller than pre-games promise

    By Andrew MacLeod, The Tyee October 27, 2011

    Pricewaterhouse Coopers today released the seventh in a series of reports on the impacts of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, again showing the promised boost to British Columbia's GDP is yet to materialize.

    The report, which notes that Canadians won more medals than ever before and that the games were viewed by a record number of people, says the games gave a $2.3 billion lift to the provincial economy between 2003 and the end of 2010.

    That figure is in line with previous PwC reports, and remains well short of pre-games estimates.

    "The total economic impact, once the games are done, has been projected by independent sources to be as much as $10 billion," then B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen said on Feb. 17, 2009 as he delivered that year's budget, three months ahead of the provincial election.

    That figure was down slightly from the $10.7 billion the government had previously promoted on its website.

    The Tyee reported in Nov. 2009 that the government had again quietly downgraded its estimate to $4 billion, a number that removed the convention centre from the calculation but assumed a big boost in tourist visits resulting from the games.

    VANOC spent a budget of about $1.8884 billion, the PwC report says.

    A University of B.C. study released earlier this week says that on top of VANOC's operating budget, the B.C. and Canadian governments spent $603 million on venue construction.

    Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria.


  7. Overstated Claims for Positive 2010 'Games Effect'

    Latest tally of Olympics benefits requires skeptical eye for small print and spun numbers.

    By Bob Mackin, Today, TheTyee.ca October 28, 2011

    Like the 2011 Stanley Cup final, the PricewaterhouseCoopers Games Effect series of reports went the distance and left a confusing, frustrating legacy.

    The seventh and last edition of the British Columbia and federal government-sponsored reports was published Oct. 27. It was not an exhaustive audit, but instead the underlying intention was to convince taxpayers that their investment in the 2010 Winter Olympics was worth it.

    Initial estimates of a $10 billion bonanza trumpeted by Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance and Olympics Minister Colin Hansen never materialized.

    PWC estimates a $2.3 billion gross domestic product impact for the 2003 to 2010 period. Impressive? Until you consider the real GDP in the Games year alone was $154 billion.

    Tourism got a $228 million shot in the arm over the seven-year period, of which $139 million was for food, beverage and lodging, $33 million transportation and $18 million shopping.

    What about the 'aversion effect'?

    The report measures incremental impacts generated by federal government spending and investment from other out-of-province sources and offers a surprising revelation about the host province.

    "In fact, much of the spending by B.C. residents during the Games was not truly incremental. A large portion would have otherwise been spent on other forms of entertainment or activities somewhere else in the province (e.g., ski resorts, museums, festivals, theatres)."

    The $3.48 billion in incremental spending from 2003-2010 was led by construction ($1.26 billion), operations ($1.54 billion) and tourism ($230 million).

    "The majority of the third-party spending (on construction)

    is due to the City of Vancouver assuming responsibility for funding and completing the Vancouver Olympic Village."

    The report's timing is noteworthy. It was released just three days before Guadalajara's 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico conclude and the Pan Am flag is handed to Toronto. The federal government wants to get Ontario excited about the 2015 "Golden Horseshoe" Games. Which probably explains why the B.C. Finance Ministry wouldn't act on its own and disclose the cost of the PWC reports.

    A key omission from the Oct. 27 report is the so-called aversion effect. Mega-events, according to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., cause host city residents to alter their consumption patterns and Games-time visitors tend to displace both locals and regular visitors.

    As such, a May 2010 report by Holy Cross found the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games "had a modest short-run impact on employment and no significant impact on total employment in the long run." That followed a November 2008 report that found hotels and restaurants in Utah gained $70.6 million, but general merchandise sales fell $167.4 million.

    Five-ring chaos

    PWC included a disclaimer that it "relied upon the completeness, accuracy and fair presentation of all the information, data, advice, opinion or representations" from public sources and the B.C. and Federal Olympic Secretariats." Which may explain some key errors of omission and commission. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  8. #OccupyVancouver? Look to Hong Kong housing activists for inspiration

    by TRISTAN MARKLE, The Mainlander October 5, 2011

    As protests in solidarity with #OccupyWallStreet spread across the continent, the “99%’ers” here are beginning to think about what #OccupyVancouver might look like. ... What does it mean, then, to hold a protest in solidarity with that in New York? In part, it means to be inspired by their courage. That means to take spaces that challenge the real seats of power in our local situation. That may mean taking the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, but probably not: the reason protests are often held there is that the space is relatively easy to book. An #OccupyVancouver truly inspired by the original would take a space that is non-bookable, that directly challenges power-brokers.

    Arguably the dominant function of Vancouver’s economy is that its housing market acts as a ‘sink’ for global capital accumulation. Investors, most of whom are locally-based, store their extracted wealth in Vancouver’s inflated real-estate market. The inflation of housing prices is managed by a realty oligopoly. This has created an affordability crisis for the working-class. While property-owners rely on the development monopoly to keep their home prices inflated, renters, who constitute the majority, are exploited. The city which most resembles Vancouver in these respects is Hong Kong. Vancouver and Hong Kong rank together as the most unaffordable cities in the world, with the median house price costing more than three times the median household income. As a result, residents are being driven out of their homes, onto the streets, out of the city. In Hong Kong, they have clearly identified the seat of power, and began their own #Occupy-like movement earlier this year. The story may serve as yet more inspiration for those thinking about our own solidarity movement.

    Just this past March 26 2011, Hong Kong activists staged a protest in one of developer Li Ka-Shing’s supermarkets “because property developers, not the government, were the ‘real enemies of society’” [1]. As an act of creative civil disobedience, protesters filled shopping carts with items, then stood in line without buying anything in order to “paralyse property hegemony for an hour.” One protester said: “We chose ParknShop because it is owned by Mr. Li Ka-shing and we all know Mr. Li is the real boss of Hong Kong…We are not expecting this to change the world, or beat down Mr. Li or the property-developer hegemony. But we want to make it a start of a new satyagraha campaign. We used to protest against the government. But it is no use. We target developers because they are the boss of the government and the real enemy of the society.” Another protester, a recent university graduate, said: “Even if we want to rent a flat, the rents are beyond our reach. It is because the influence of developers is too big.”[1]

    Readers may know that Li Ka-Shing’s Concord Pacific bought Vancouver’s massive Expo Lands in 1988, developed Yaletown, and still has long-term plans for 10,000 to 20,000 more high-end condos on North False Creek. Concord Pacific, now run by Terry Hui, remains a major player in Vancouver’s developer oligopoly, with most new housing inventory planned beyond 2013 in Vancouver under its control. Concord’s ‘land bank’ comprises a large portion of Vancouver’s undeveloped lands, including much of False Creek, as well as 58 West Hastings – the site of 2010′s Olympic Tent Village. ... It is a mistake to for either Vancouverites or Hong Kongers to blame their inflated housing market on “foreigners.” In both city-states, the crisis is produced and managed by a development oligopoly, which uses the same tactics. ....

    read the full article at:


  9. Nine Months before Olympics, Province Saw Big 'Shortfall'

    By Bob Mackin, Today, TheTyee.ca November 14, 2011

    A VANOC deficit was forecast nine months before the 2010 Winter Olympics, according to provincial government documents obtained via Freedom of Information.

    The 2010 Winter Games Working Risk Register listed a post-Games loss as a "high risk."

    "Budget shortfall estimated in June 2009," said the spreadsheet inventory of government-wide Olympic and Paralympic risks. "1. Actual costs are higher than estimated; 2. Unforeseen costs are significant; 3. Costs included in budget were not complete; 4. Revenue estimates for remaining outstanding revenue items were overstated; 5. Project contingency is fully utilized before Games end; 6. Unforeseen costs associated with Cypress venue."

    It said there was no "agreement/framework" to resolve a post-Games deficit between VANOC and its partners. The consequences to the province included a significant revenue risk, unpaid suppliers trying to recoup money owed, and a negative Olympic legacy.

    "Any new contribution agreement for VANOC should include additional financial monitoring conditions and should require VANOC to notify Province of any significant challenges going forward," said the report. "Although Province is not responsible for a deficit, as a Games Partner, should be aware of any deficit as soon as possible and assist in developing mitigations."

    According to its commitments to the International Olympic Committee, however, the B.C. government was responsible for any deficit because it was the ultimate guarantor of the Games.

    The IOC pledged $22 million in August 2009 because it failed to deliver two more global sponsors. When VANOC revealed its post-Games financial report on Dec. 17, 2010, it claimed a balanced budget after $188.78 million in operations revenue from the federal and B.C. governments.

    When the business plan was unveiled in May 2007, VANOC CEO John Furlong said no taxpayer funds would be used for operations.

    320 risks identified

    The government-wide report ranked risks to ministries, agencies, departments and Crown corporations, from the attorney general to Vancouver Coastal Health. Anticipated risks, consequences and mitigation strategies were updated in the summer and fall of 2009 and just before the Games in January 2010. By Games time, there were 320 risks: 192 deemed low probability, 107 medium, 22 high and none extreme.

    Several entries in the report were censored under one or more loopholes of the FOI Act: cabinet confidences, policy advice or recommendations, harm to law enforcement and harm to public body finances. Therefore it is impossible to know whether the government was ready for an El Niño winter wiping out snow, an athlete death or ticket scam.

    Snow was trucked in from near Manning Provincial Park to Cypress Mountain, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died on opening day and Latvian criminals used stolen credit card numbers to buy $2 million worth of tickets. The incidents impacted VANOC, public finances and the province's reputation. ...
    Reports sponsored by City of Vancouver, the B.C. and federal governments all painted a rosy picture about Olympic economic benefits, but failed to consider how host city residents change their spending habits during a mega-event or vacate the area because of transportation and security inconveniences.

    read the full article at:


  10. I wrote this blog article in a satirical tone. My 'modest proposals' are not ideal, but they would at least provide shelter to every homeless person. In this excerpted article below, housing experts have some real solutions that in some respects are similar to what I proposed.

    Renovator and Holmes on Homes host offers easy fixes for First Nations housing crisis

    By Janet Davison, CBC News December 3, 2011

    For Canada's most famous — and outspoken — home renovator, the solution to the First Nations housing crisis is remarkably simple.

    "When I heard years ago the problems they were having, to me it was like, 'Oh, OK, this is easy. Why isn't anyone else doing it?'" Mike Holmes, star of HGTV's home renovation show Holmes on Homes, said in an interview. "We need to stop building crap. It's as simple as that."

    Holmes teamed up with the Assembly of First Nations in 2010 to create a pilot project on the Whitefish Lake First Nation west of Sudbury, Ont., to build energy-efficient, environmentally friendly homes and other infrastructure. The ongoing project also aims to develop trade skills for people living on reserves. While recent attention has focused on the grim living conditions on the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario, the First Nations housing crisis extends far beyond just the James Bay community and has gone on for years.

    For Holmes and others who want to move past the politicking and fingerpointing consuming much of the public debate around the issue, solutions lie in the willingness to embrace ideas others may want to dismiss out of hand. Maybe we can make better choices about building materials that may initially be more expensive but last longer and won't burn or be susceptible to mould. Maybe we can consider buildings not based on a wood frame, such as steel shipping containers converted into comfortable homes. And so on.

    "Let's look at the building technology," says Holmes, whose ideal First Nations home would be about 1,100 square feet and built with wood and other materials that won't burn or be susceptible to mould. "I don't care if you want a box. I don't care if you want it off the ground. I don't care if you want a foundation. It's using all the products that make sense, nothing but mould-free, nothing but zero VOCs [volatile organic compounds]. This is not hard." ...

    But what particularly sets the Moose Cree project apart is the form the housing takes: dwellings inside converted steel shipping containers.

    "Building more wood-based houses that are going to burn down or be filled with mould again isn't a good option for anybody," says Steve Marshall, vice-president and general manager of the Sudbury-based Morris Group of Companies.

    "These are true and proper solutions to the crisis. It creates employment. It's their own community building their own homes. They profit by it, and the homes are far better quality."

    The Morris Group has also had discussions about possible similar collaborations with the Attawapiskat First Nation and other communities.

    Marshall says the only drawback to the idea of using converted shipping containers for housing is the stigma associated with it.

    "A lot of it is just the mentality of people saying, 'How could you live inside a ship container?'" said Marshall. "Well, you're not. You would never know."

    Marshall says the shipping container really only replaces the shell of a home that is traditionally built with wood. The steel frame is highly resistant to fire and won't allow mould to develop, and inside, the home is comfortable.

    "They're safe units," Marshall said. "They're thermally efficient. These homes have longevity. They don't break down. They don't come apart in the same way." ...

    read the full article at:


  11. Homeless people in the UK revealed to have life expectancy of just 47

    by Randeep Ramesh & Rebecca Ratcliffe
    The Guardian December 21, 2011

    Homeless people can expect their lives to be about 30 years shorter than average, with a likelihood of dying at around 47, a life expectancy comparable to that in the Congo, according to a report by the charity Crisis.

    Homelessness: A Silent Killer reports that homeless people in the UK who suffer the stresses and strains of alcoholism and substance abuse live only a little longer than those in the poorest countries, with the average age of death at 47 for men and 43 for women. This compares with 77 for the general population. The research, by Sheffield University, calculated that drug and alcohol abuse were responsible for just over a third of deaths among the homeless. They were also nine times more likely to kill themselves than the general public, and twice as likely to die of infections.

    Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: "It is shocking … homeless people are dying much younger than the general population. Life on the streets is harsh and the stress of being homeless is clearly taking its toll. This report paints a bleak picture of the consequences homelessness has on people's health and wellbeing. Ultimately, it shows that homelessness is killing people." Crisis warned that current NHS services do not meet the needs of homeless people and are at risk under the government's reorganisation of the NHS.

    The charity was concerned that even while the health service was seeing rising budgets, the homeless were not considered a priority and that in a time of flat funding it was "clear that more needs to be done to tackle the health inequalities that persist for homeless people".

    Morphy added: "Homeless people are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and it is clear that despite significant investment in the NHS they are not getting the help they need to address their health issues. Government must do more to improve the health of single homeless people and ensure they can access mainstream and specialist services.

    Alex Bax, chief executive of London Pathway, a specialist homeless charity that works closely with University College Hospital, said services would only improve if the health outcomes of homeless people were made an explicit priority for all of the NHS. A separate report reveals almost 70,000 children will wake up on Christmas Day in temporary accommodation, without a permanent home to call their own.

    According to government figures highlighted by Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, there are currently 69,846 children in England living in temporary accommodation such as hostels, bed and breakfasts and refuges. With waiting lists lengthening and the government's cuts to housing benefit, there are worries that swelling numbers living in temporary shelter will become a permanent feature.

    Kay Boycott, Shelter's policy director, said: "It's simply not right that in an affluent nation like ours, thousands of children will wake up on Christmas day wanting nothing more than a permanent roof over their head. We cannot underestimate the damage homelessness has on children's lives. They often miss out on vital schooling, because they are shunted from place to place and many become ill by the poor conditions they are forced to live in."


  12. A housing-for-homeless project belies Harper’s hard-line reputation

    by HEATHER SCOFFIELD, The Canadian Press
    December 26, 2011

    The government’s response to the Attawapiskat housing crisis may well have underscored Stephen Harper’s reputation for his hard line rather than his heart, with his focus on the aboriginal reserve’s financial problems, not its social ones.

    But in other parts of the country, the Prime Minister’s government is also quietly bankrolling one of the largest social pilot projects ever seen in Canada, paying generously for cutting-edge research that is changing the lives of hundreds of homeless people.

    The project may scream out for a new, national social program – the kind that has been anathema to Mr. Harper in the past.

    But it is producing results that suggest federal involvement in funding homes for the homeless can be smart and save money.

    The At Home/Chez Soi pilot project is now halfway through its five-year life span, backed by $110-million of federal money channelled through the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

    It’s the most comprehensive research experiment with homelessness in Canada, if not the world, researchers say. And it’s working.

    “We now have enough experience to know this can be done,” says Paula Goering, lead researcher for the project.

    The pilot project has its origins in the political dust-up of 2006. With Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government on life support, NDP leader Jack Layton demanded billions in federal funding for housing and homelessness. The bargain eventually broke down, but left behind a mounting public concern that homelessness had been ignored for too long.

    The government agreed to set up a program through the newly-minted Mental Health Commission. As is Mr. Harper’s style, it was to be finely-targeted, one-time funding.

    But top government officials, in touch with Ms. Goering and other researchers on the front lines, argued that homelessness was a growing scourge in every major city. And they saw a new approach in the parts of the United States that seemed to be producing results: dramatic reductions in homelessness, all while saving money on social services, and law enforcement.

    The approach, known as “housing first,” rejects the traditional method of trying to fix homeless people’s underlying problems before guiding them towards affordable housing. Instead, the home comes first – heavily subsidized and with no strings attached. Then, a support team swoops in and bombards the homeless people with services of all kinds, if they want them.

    The government was not about to embrace an experimental approach to the homeless wholesale. Instead, taking their cue from Mr. Harper, officials decided to zero in on a sub-group: the mentally ill.

    Then they narrowed their focus further. In five cities across the country, they targeted a particularly vulnerable sector of the mentally ill homeless population. In Toronto, it was visible minorities.

    At Home staff and partners in each city scour alleys and sidewalks for homeless people who fit the bill and funnel the willing into the program.

    continued in next comment


  13. continued from previous comment:

    Out in suburban Scarborough, Elizabeth Bennett meticulously organized and hung up a few dozen sketches she has finished, and decorated her tiny new apartment for Christmas. Her Bible and a small backpack are never far from her side, even while relaxing in her home.

    She has spent the past few years in and out of shelters and various lodgings, struggling to gain control of her schizophrenia and deal with a former landlord who threatened her family and wanted to “keep” her. Now, she has privacy, a strong support network, friends in the church nearby, and a sense of home.

    “As long as I’m inside, I feel safe,” she says. “I feel safe because of my prayer, and because of the security on the door.”

    A common criticism of the housing-first approach to homelessness is that it can’t work in a tight housing market. Core to the idea is to give homeless people a choice in their home, so they can have some control over living conditions. But that’s hard if there’s not much rental housing available, says York University professor Stephen Gaetz, who heads the Canadian Homelessness Research Network.

    The At Home clients come with ample support and funding attached, as well as a plan to prevent eviction. Often, they’re less trouble than regular tenants, says Paula McDougall, the office manager at a building in a gritty part of north Toronto.

    The At Home people pay their rent on time, she says, and they are coached on how to live in harmony with their neighbours. Ms. McDougall stays in touch with the case workers, and although she has no formal training in dealing with mental illness herself, she has had enough experience to know what to do if someone goes off their meds or causes trouble.

    At Home has been able to place everyone approached so far. As of November, the program was fully subscribed, with 1,030 homeless people now in homes and a control group of 980 people.

    “At any time, 70 to 80 per cent of the clients are doing really well,” says Aseefa Sarang, executive director of Across Boundaries, a Toronto mental health organization that is heading up implementation of At Home in the city.

    That’s an astounding success rate for a problem that has been the bane of many a government policy.


  14. I don't think we need any more research to know that making housing the homeless the top priority is the crucial first step in addressing all the other issues the homeless and near homeless face. This At Home program proves that, and what is really needed is a national strategy. But don't hold your breath. Stephen Harper is notorious for completely ignoring facts and evidence when attempting to solve social problems through ideological policies.

    The $110 million spent on this project has housed 1030 people. For that same amount of money, 1100 homes could be built at $100,000, which is entirely feasible. Large scale building projects could probably greatly reduce the cost per home unit.

    The people targeted by the At Home program are those who are the most difficult to help and who require extra programs to keep them stabilized in their new home. But many homeless and near homeless are not mentally ill and do not require support, other than rent subsidies. They just need suitable, secure housing without the fear of being evicted.

  15. America's prison nation, must we follow suit?

    By Brian Stewart, CBC News Posted: Feb 2, 2012

    For over a quarter century the U.S. political system has dodged and weaved its way around one of the great scandals of our times — the mass incarceration of millions of its citizens.

    But in all the theatrics and thunder of recent political debate barely a peep has been heard about the astonishing 2,284,000 Americans currently behind bars or why an unprecedented six million are under "correctional supervision," meaning in prison or on parole or probation.

    Indeed, some argue that the number snared in the U.S. criminal justice system even surpasses those condemned to Stalin's gulag prison empire at its height.

    No nation on Earth locks up more people than the U.S., which incarcerates at a rate seven times that of other developed nations. The U.S. has less than five per cent of the world's population, but it has 23 per cent of those behind bars around the globe.

    Last year, the influential Economist magazine dubbed America "Prison Nation," and the U.S. incarceration mania is routinely criticised by human rights groups.

    Yet neither Republicans nor Democrats seem to view this as a national problem worthy of debate.

    With his campaign to decriminalize recreational drug use, Ron Paul, the libertarian candidate for the Republican leadership, has made a roundabout stab at the problem.

    But even one of the very few political figures who's argued directly for prison reform in the past, the mercurial Newt Gingrich, has so far avoided the subject throughout the interminable Republican debates, no doubt for fear of being denounced as a weak-kneed liberal.

    And don't look to Barack Obama for a brave moral stand on this.

    The current administration is mostly silent on the subject, as is, surprisingly, the U.S. national media, which has never really focused on mass incarceration in the way it once highlighted racial segregation or rural poverty in the 1950s and '60s.

    In fact, when it comes to the country's high incarceration rate, Americans seem extraordinarily indifferent to the outside world's opinion.

    Wrapped in their own convictions, they either don't know others are shocked at the harshness of their justice system, or simply don't give a damn.

    Last week, however, the influential New Yorker magazine ran a powerful blast entitled "The Caging of America" by one of its star writers and commentators, Adam Gopnik, which demanded America finally confront the inhumanity of its punishment mania.

    It was a rare but important sally into the fray as The New Yorker is so widely quoted in the U.S.

    "How did we get here?" Gopnik asked his readers to ask themselves. "How is it that our civilization, which rejects hanging and flogging and disembowelling, came to believe that caging vast numbers of people for decades is an acceptably humane sanction?"

    The statistics alone almost defy belief. Every day at least 50,000 men are locked in solitary confinement, while every year 70,000 are raped in chronically overcrowded facilities.

    More than 60 per cent of all U.S. inmates are in for non-violent crimes, many for simple drug offences or minor crimes, the result of government-enacted "mandatory sentences" that take all discretion away from judges.

    One in every 28 children in the U.S. has a parent locked up, and more than two-thirds of these absent parents are in for non-violent crimes.

    "The scale and brutality of prisons are the moral scandal of American life," Gopnik concludes.

    continued in next comment...


  16. continued from previous comment:

    Many Canadians have started to pay attention to the horrors of the U.S. prison system ever since the Harper government set out to build more prisons and incarcerate more people in what almost seems a junior version of the American model.

    Since 2005, Ottawa has jacked up spending on federal corrections by 85 per cent, from $1.6 billion under the former Liberal government to almost $3 billion last year.

    Soon the passage of Bill C-10 will add new and tougher sentences for drug offences, increase mandatory minimums and curtail the use of conditional sentences such as house arrest.

    New prisons, stricter sentencing rules and, likely, more stringent parole conditions guarantee Canada will be incarcerating more people than ever before in a seemingly bizarre attempt to ape the disastrous mistakes of our southern neighbour.

    What will most puzzle future historians of course is that both the U.S. and Canada chose to lock up more and more people even as crime rates plunged to levels not seen since the 1970s.

    Some like to proclaim that America's harsh incarceration regime is responsible for the decline in crime. But that is clearly not the case.

    U.S. crime rates have declined roughly 30-40 per cent in both those U.S. states with "soft" sentencing regimes as well as those with the harshest, as indeed they have throughout the Western world.

    Decreasing crime rates are part of a widespread trend that few understand fully. They may be a function of demographics (relatively fewer young males) or better policing and technical surveillance.

    The simple fact that people carry less cash around these days has greatly reduced muggings.

    Some new studies also suggest that crime can simply fall out of fashion in some periods regardless of legal punishments.

    "Conservatives don't like this view," Gopnik writes, with no little irony, "because it shows that being tough doesn't help; liberals don't like it because apparently being nice doesn't help either."

    Whichever the case, the giant "Prison Nation" that the U.S. has constructed will defy easy dismantling.

    Yes, some budget-battered states have started to look at cheaper alternatives, such as community service and home detention. And California was forced to release over 33,000 prisoners last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled its overcrowded conditions were inhumane. But the obstacles to reform are massive.

    The growth of privately run prisons means their builders are lobbying fiercely to defend the momentum towards ever-bigger penitentiaries.

    Of greater concern may be a deep pathology in the U.S. public, noted by Charles Dickens in 1842 during his visit, that accepts exceptionally harsh punishment and outlandishly long sentences as all quite normal, not to mention spiritually virtuous.

    This perversion of a justice system that should be a model for the world is really a dreadful stain on the U.S., however, and real leaders should step up and say that.


  17. Crime bill won't benefit victims, says former ombudsman

    By Meagan Fitzpatrick, CBC News February 23, 2012

    The federal government's massive crime bill won't help victims and could do the opposite, the former ombudsman for victims of crime warned Thursday.

    Steve Sullivan, who was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the first victims' ombudsman, said Bill C-10 is being touted as legislation designed to benefit victims but there are concerns it could hurt them instead.

    Sullivan said Crown attorneys are warning that increased caseloads due to the bill could mean more plea bargains and dropped charges.

    "That's not an agenda that benefits victims of crimes who turn to the system for justice," he said at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

    "The bill is being sold as tough on sex offenders. Unfortunately, the government with this bill is going to spend 10 times more money on dealing with sex offenders than they are dealing with children, and building child advocacy centres," said Sullivan.

    Former Progressive Conservative MP David Daubney and retired judges from Ontario and Yukon were also at the news conference to list complaints about the government's omnibus crime bill, which is now in the Senate's hands.

    They are part of a group called the Smart Justice Network that is trying to promote discussion in Canada about "safe and effective" responses to crime.

    Daubney said a number of the bill's measures, including more mandatory minimum sentences and fewer conditional ones, and making it harder for offenders to get parole, will lead to a "burgeoning" prison population, a concern that has been expressed often during debate on the bill.

    "I think fear is at the basis of much of the government's work here. And what it's going to do, unfortunately, is make Canadians, I think, more fearful and less safe," said Daubney, who was a member of Parliament in the 1980s and chaired the justice committee. He went on to work for the justice department after his work in the House of Commons.

    The group said many of the government's proposed policies are unwarranted and unproven when it comes to improving public safety. Crime rates are dropping and experiences in other jurisdictions that have toughened sentencing and kept people in jail longer have proven to be ineffective and costly, the group said.

    "I'm a judge, I have to make my decisions on the best evidence," said retired judge Barry Stuart. "I haven't seen the best evidence for spending this incredible amount of money on something that we know doesn't work," he said.

    Retired Ontario judge James Chadwick said mandatory minimum sentences take discretion away from judges and that one size does not fit all in sentencing. He predicted there will be fewer guilty pleas, more trials, and longer trials.

    Don Bayne from the Criminal Lawyers' Association predicts there will immediately be Constitutional challenges to the mandatory minimum provisions.

    "Protracted legal battles are going to start to unfold over this unjustified policy," he said.

    continued in next comment...

  18. continued from previous comment:

    The government has often defended its crime bill, and its costs, by saying the cost of crime to victims far outweighs what will be spent on implementing the new measures.

    But Sullivan suggested that Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who are leading the government's efforts on justice reform, are taking the wrong approach.

    "Certainly when it comes to victims, I think Minister Toews and Minister Nicholson have a very narrow view of what it is that victims actually need. I think they equate victims' rights and victims' needs with how you deal with the offender. So if you punish the offender enough then victims will be happy," he said.

    Some victims groups might support that approach, he said, but a majority feel that what happens in courtrooms does little to benefit them. They are often disappointed and the Safe Streets and Communities Act will do little to change that, he said.

    Sullivan and the other advocates said the government continues to ignore evidence that doesn't support its case.

    "I think everything this government does is political," Sullivan said. "I honestly believe this is their ideology, and they think this will work and they just ignore anything that will question that. And I don't think that's a responsible government."

    Responding to the criticism, Nicholson's office said the government is committed to improving the integrity of the justice system.

    "The Safe Streets and Communities Act contains measures which target organized crime and those who commit sexual offences against children," Julie DiMambro, press secretary to Nicholson, said in an email. "This legislation responds directly to recommendations put forth by victims and law enforcement, many of whom testified before the Senate committee in the past week."

    The House of Commons passed the Safe Streets and Communities Act in December. The Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee is now studying it.


  19. Homeless death toll continues to climb

    BY JOHN BONNAR, rabble.ca | AUGUST 14, 2012

    The photo, featuring a yellow candle burning brightly, hung over the Toronto Homeless Memorial board as a symbol of hope that one day homeless deaths will be a thing of the past.

    For now though, anti-poverty and housing activists continue to gather on the second Tuesday of every month to honour those who’ve died on the streets of Toronto the previous month.

    Passersby were reflected in in the plexiglass cover of the Homeless Memorial Board that now contains the names of over 600 men, women and children.

    On a cool August morning, people drifted in and out of the Church of the Holy Trinity, a sanctuary for homeless people that’s open six days a week.

    Since the early part of the 20th century, the Church has been ministering to the needs of people in the inner city.

    On Tuesday, the smoke from the barbecues rose high above the trees in the grassy area just south of the Church.

    The corporate community hosted an event in support of the Daily Bread Food Bank to which no uninvited guests were allowed entry. Business people only. Not even the homeless people who sat on the benches a few yards away.

    Those who work in the plush office buildings overlooking the Labyrinth dropped non-perishable food items into the drop boxes as they entered the restricted area.

    The music blared out of the large black speakers, drowning out the conversation of the homeless couple scanning the list of names on the Memorial board.

    The event was closed off to the public. Security personnel floated around the perimeter. Nine chefs sweated above the oversized grills.

    Near noon, the lineup to get into the event stretched into the courtyard, almost reaching the entrance of the Eaton Centre.
    The memorial candles were lit shortly after noon and handed out to a couple of dozen mourners, before one person who died in July was added to the board.

    Her name was Cindy Foster.

    For almost 10 years, Cindy was part of the community at Sanctuary Ministries, a church in downtown Toronto.

    “She had this big, huge, curly red hair and a terrific laugh,” said Doug Johnson-Hatlem, a street pastor at Sanctuary. “She had a very tough life living on the streets.”

    After she’d been housed for four years, Cindy received an eviction notice nine days before she died of cancer in hospital.

    “She wasn’t even there and she got evicted,” said Greg Cook, an outreach worker at Sanctuary.

    “Which is often indicative of the nature of poverty and how precarious housing is.”

    In addition to Cindy, two other names were added to the board. One died in October 2008; the other in November 2011.

    After a moment of silence, housing activist Michael Shapcott stepped up to the microphone and announced a new national homelessness initiative called the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness whose mission is to create a national movement to prevent and end homelessness in Canada through the development of 10 Year Plans to End Homelessness in communities across the country.

    “We need to move from crisis responses (like shelters and soup kitchens) to solutions -- permanent, appropriate, safe and affordable housing with the support necessary to sustain it,” wrote the Alliance on its website.

    “We’ve had other national homelessness organizations over the years,” said Shapcott. “But groups have a life span and then they move on.”

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  20. continued from previous comment:

    Shapcott also mentioned that Sanctuary will be holding a meeting on Thursday, September 6 at 1 p.m. around the issue of social profiling of homeless people.

    “Social profiling is a fancy term for the prejudice and discrimination that people who live on the streets experience because of their lack of housing,” he said.

    “So we know that police treat homeless people differently than they treat people who are housed. We know that social services and many others treat homeless people differently than they treat people who are housed.”

    In their forum on September 6, people are invited to talk publicly about social profiling and how to end it.

    An hour before Tuesday’s memorial, Greg Cook said he witnessed a police officer issue a $65 ticket to a homeless person because he smelled Listerine on the man’s breath.

    “I don’t know,” said Cook. “There may be a law about that but I haven’t heard that one before.”

    While that police officer was writing up the ticket, Cook said he saw another officer allegedly rifling through a homeless man’s bag without a warrant.

    “He was looking for the man’s medication, but didn’t ask permission to look through the bag,” he said.

    “Then he threw it back down on the ground. Just really bullying and harassment in my opinion. And the gentlemen were just sitting there on the bench.”

    Cook, who spends a great deal of time as an outreach worker walking the streets building relationships with homeless people, said it’s common practice for police officers to ticket or write notes on homeless people.

    “Which is profiling,” said Cook. “Essentially, it criminalizes poverty.”

    At the end of the memorial vigil, Sherman Hesslegrave, the minister at the Church of the Holy Trinity, invited everyone inside the church for lunch.

    “I have no idea what they’re offering across the way,” he said.

    “But it looks like that’s a ticketed event and ours is not. You’re all welcome.”


  21. Why funding new sports stadiums can be a losing bet

    Building stadiums and arenas have little economic benefits for cities, research shows

    By Armina Ligaya, CBC News February 1, 2013

    When people hear of plans to bring a new stadium or arena to their city, they typically envision the stands packed with loyal sports fans, restaurants filled with eager diners from out of town and local hotels bustling with travellers there to see the big game.

    That's what the cities of Edmonton and Markham, Ont., are counting on — both have just green-lighted public funding towards multimillion-dollar arena projects, in the hopes of creating new jobs and drawing in extra visitors.

    Edmonton has approved a deal with the owner of the Oilers for the proposed $480-million downtown arena, while many in Markham, Ont., located just north of Toronto, are hoping their planned 20,000-seat rinkwill be bait for a new NHL franchise.

    Both cities will likely be disappointed with the economic outcome, if past research is any indication.

    The vast majority of studies done on the financial benefits of new sporting facilities by researchers not connected to any sport, league, or team have not found any economic boost for cities, experts say.

    "Most of the independent research can't find any economic impact associated with either new arenas, new stadiums, or new franchises or large events," said Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Ma., who has been researching the economics of sport for more than a decade.

    "So, building a new arena doesn't seem to have any effect on a city's employment, per capita income, hotel occupancy rates, [or] taxable sales."

    And for those cities that do see a business bump from hosting sporting events, it's a fraction of what is touted, he added.

    Matheson cited a study he conducted in the U.S. that examined cities that hosted the Super Bowl between 1970 and the mid-2000s. His analysis found that the mega-sporting event was associated with an increase in income in each city of roughly $30 million to $90 million US.

    "That's positive, but that's also between one-quarter and one-tenth of what the [National Football] League says," Matheson said.

    Very little Canadian sports economic research has been conducted, Matheson said, in part because many researchers in this field are south of the border, and because of the ease of access to data there.

    But one 2005 study, conducted by University of Ottawa researchers, looked at the economic impact of professional sports teams on hotel occupancy rates between 1990 and 1999 in eight Canadian cities, including Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal.

    The research, published in the Journal of Sports Economics, found that in 11 out of 17 cases, when a city with a major league franchise goes through a period without a team — due to a league lockout, for example, or when a team such as the Winnipeg Jets leaves — it "had no statistically significant impact" on the hotel occupancy rates in that city.

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  22. One of the issues is that consumers have a relatively fixed budget for their leisure activities. So, money spent on a hockey game could be cash that would have been used to, say, pay for a round of golf or to watch a basketball game.

    "While local businesses may see an increase in sales around the stadium, it's sales and money that would have been spent in other parts of the community, for the most part," said Richard Powers, a lecturer at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. "So they're just redirecting it into a certain area."

    As for attracting outside interest, studies show that just 20 per cent of the sporting event tickets are bought by people who live elsewhere, added Powers.

    With little economic benefit, the hefty amount of money coming out of city coffers to fund these shiny new facilities is "hard to justify if other infrastructure projects are being put on hold," he added.

    Most stadium and arena projects have been financed with public money, which often leave taxpayers in the city or municipality on the hook for several years.

    One example is the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal. It took three decades for Quebec taxpayers to pay off the $1.5 billion Cdn debt from that venture. The astronomical cost — funded with 30-year bonds — included building Olympic Stadium, the Olympic village, a post-modern apartment building complex, the Velodrome and other facilities.

    The 58,500-seat Olympic Stadium eventually became the home of the Montreal Expos, until the Major League Baseball team was sold to Washington, D.C., in 2004. The facility's lingering debt earned it the nickname the "Big Owe."

    "We had Montreal citizens paying off the last of those bonds, paying off the 'Big Owe' after the Montreal Expos had already left town," said Matheson.

    In Markham, a city of about 300,000 people, the proposed arena is estimated to cost $325 million. Half of the money will come from private sources, namely the Remington Group, and the other half will be generated through a levy on newly built homes, townhouses and condominiums.

    In Edmonton, the proposed arena will cost roughly $480 million — $143 million put up by Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, $219 million coming from the city and $114 million coming from other levels of government. A ticket surcharge is expected to raise another $125 million.

    The initial budgets for both of these arenas are likely conservative estimates, said Powers.

    "They have a price tag right now, but again, if you were going to sell something, you're going to put it as low as you can... And we know what happens in these projects. They are notorious for cost overruns."

    In some cases, going over budget is legitimate, he said. The projects take several years to build, and over that time, economic conditions, the cost of labour and the value can change. But, either way, it is often the municipality left with the bill when the project goes over budget, Powers said.

    Beyond the outlay of funds to build the stadium, there are costs related to subsidies and concessions given to the team owner, says Matheson.

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  23. For example, it is common for franchise owners to negotiate a deal with a city to not pay property tax on the land or facility, he said.

    "Had that land instead been given to a shopping mall developer, that would have obviously generated property taxes and other types of sales and use taxes. That is now forgone."

    There is also the loss in taking public money away from other projects that would also benefit the community.

    "Where are you diverting cash from? What other infrastructure projects that would be benefiting the community are being cancelled or put on hold?" Powers said.

    There are indirect benefits, however, of a new sports facility to the surrounding community that can't be quantified.

    Having a local team to cheer on, and new amenities, can help boost the well-being and sense of civic pride among local residents.

    "There are positives to it," said Powers. "You know there's community pride, there's certainly a rallying point around a team. But are the costs worth it?... Ask people what they would rather do: have a stadium or a rapid transit system? I think you'll find that most people would go for the rapid transit system."

    That being said, there are examples of sporting projects that did continue generating revenue, such as the facilities built as part of the Calgary 1988 Olympics, he added.

    But the bulk have produced little economic benefit, or are major losses. One recent cautionary tale is the new Marlins Park baseball stadium in Miami.

    Miami-Dade County taxpayers paid for most of the $634 million US required to build it. However, to start construction, the city took out a loan, and the city will end up repaying roughly $2.4 billion US over 40 years, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

    Even so, cities are still clamouring to build their own mega-sporting projects.

    One reason is that sporting leagues have been "pretty smart about playing cities off of each other," said Matheson.

    Teams can threaten to move their franchises unless they get a new facility, for example.

    "All of these leagues are pretty good at keeping up a monopoly, and limiting the number of franchises, which makes franchise relocation a real, credible threat," he said.

    Also, team owners or promoters have vested interests, he added.

    "Just because an arena or stadium isn't good for a city as a whole doesn't mean it's not great for a franchise owner," he said. "And the franchise owner has a real incentive to try to lobby hard for that."

    Another reason could be that the perceived economic boost — a flurry of ticket sales and a bump in spending near the arena — comes long before the debt problems are apparent, said Mike Moffat, an assistant professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.

    "It is a little bit puzzling," he said. "I think part of the problem is that the big problems tend to come 15, 20, 25 years down the line, at which point the mayor has retired. But the benefits come up front."


  24. Old, Female and Homeless

    Life on San Francisco’s streets for women over 50 is filled with hardships, small and large.

    by Rose Aguilar AlterNet January 25, 2013

    This story was produced with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and first appeared in The Nation.

    The doors of the Mission Neighborhood Health Center in San Francisco don’t open until 7 am, but on the Saturday morning I was there, a dozen or so people were already lined up by 5:30. The group included a middle-aged white man who had lost his job managing a high-end restaurant and a black man wearing a crisp security guard blazer because he had to be at work by noon. Each was there hoping for a bed for the night. The city assigns most slots in its homeless shelters on a first-come, first-served basis by computer. The people had shown up here so early because they know through experience that every last bed will be claimed by 7:10 am.

    When Marcia has no bed, she is left with precious few options, none of them good. She can ride the city bus, hoping for a kind driver who won’t boot her into the street. That’s what a 55-year-old woman I met named Dorothy used to do until she deemed that strategy too risky. “If you don’t get a nice driver, you have to get off every hour or so and wait for another one,” Dorothy said. “If you have to wait for a bus at three in the morning, you’ll be waiting a long time. Anything can happen.” A 56-year-old woman named Marcia, who has been homeless for six years, was one of the unlucky ones. She arrived while it was still dark, but not early enough to secure a bed. Because it was the weekend, her bad luck also meant two days of killing time. “Saturdays and Sundays are hell for those of us who are homeless, because most walk-in centers are closed,” she told me. “I especially hate Sundays. That’s when I ride BART.” For Marcia, riding the Bay Area’s commuter rail system is a relatively cheap way to get some rest during the day. She often falls asleep on the train, and it’s not uncommon for her to wake up and find herself an hour or more outside San Francisco.

    And then there were the plastic chairs at the Oshun Drop-In Center, a public facility run by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Marcia usually chose the plastic chairs at Oshun. It was hardly ideal, but at least she felt safe there and could try to get some sleep. “You can’t lie down on the floor,” she said. “You try, but you’re not allowed.” After a night spent contorting herself into an uncomfortable chair, her back would be killing her. “But I try not to think about it,” she said. “After a while, you get used to it.”

    It used to be that homeless women over 50 were blessedly rare. Marie O’Connor began helping seniors find housing in San Francisco’s Mission District in 1992. “To see homeless elders back then was shocking,” said O’Connor, a volunteer coordinator with the St. Anthony Foundation, a nonprofit providing the homeless with housing, meals and medical care. “Today, it’s the norm.”

    How widespread is the problem? Every homeless advocate and shelter monitor I spoke with told me the older homeless population in San Francisco is exploding. The problem is bound to get worse as the price of housing reaches new heights. San Francisco is the most expensive city in the country for renters, according to a March 2012 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Small studio apartments are going for as much as $2,000 a month, which requires a salary of at least $70,000 a year.

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  25. And it’s not just San Francisco. The cost of living in most major metropolitan areas is on the rise, while wages are down. In states like California, ongoing budget cuts to services like the Supplemental Security Income, In-Home Supportive Services and adult day healthcare centers are making it harder for elderly people to pay for housing. According to the latest numbers from Hearth, an organization working to end elder homelessness, the country had 40,750 homeless people 62 or older in 2012. As the nation’s population ages, that number is expected to more than double by 2050.

    To homeless advocates in San Francisco, those numbers sound way too low, given the problems they see just inside the city limits. But whatever the figure, there’s no doubt that life is miserable for older people without a home. Lugging suitcases or bags for dozens of blocks to and fro, from a shelter to a reservation center to the place that serves free lunches, can be incredibly taxing if you’re young and able. Doing so with the disabilities and ailments common to those in their 50s or older, from chronic back pain and arthritis to swollen ankles and gout, is that much harder. And then imagine those women’s lives, when feeling safe meant another night spent contorted into a hard plastic chair.

    Longtime advocate for the homeless James Powell seemed relieved when I mentioned that I’d seen the plastic chairs: maybe now someone would do something about them. “We’re talking about women sleeping in chairs. It’s a travesty,” said Powell, a case manager with the Canon Kip Senior Center in San Francisco. Bevan Dufty, San Francisco’s homelessness czar, told me people sleeping in plastic chairs was “not optimal, but we have to have places where people can go. It’s not an optimal place, but it’s safe, which is important. There are people who thrive in shelters; there are people who refuse to go in shelters. It’s complicated.”

    Sometime after I talked with Powell and Dufty, the plastic chairs were quietly replaced at Oshun (now officially known as A Woman’s Place) by more comfortable cushioned chairs.

    Located in the Mission District, the drop-in center is basically two large adjoining rooms, the otherwise bare walls brightened by a single big-screen TV. When I visited Oshun, I found a diverse group of forty-five women, each sitting or sleeping in a chair surrounded by her belongings. Some had old suitcases with broken zippers, while others had stuffed their things into ripped garbage bags. The lucky ones found a spot near a wall. They’d at least be able to rest their heads by putting a blanket against the wall behind them. The rest had no choice but to let their heads hang.

    Yet what choices do older homeless women have? Despite a spike in older homeless clients, says O’Connor of the St. Anthony Foundation, there are still precious few services to help women like Marcia and Dorothy. “If you’re a homeless woman, you’re guaranteed to be assaulted on the streets,” said Paul Boden, organizing director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), a West Coast coalition of homeless organizations. Boden, who was homeless himself at 16 after the death of his mother, also served as executive director of the city’s Coalition on Homelessness. “Women try to double up with guys to be safe, but they usually get beaten up by those guys, so their options are limited.”

    One of the regulars at Oshun is an Argentine woman named Zulema. She’s a 65-year-old who, when I met her, had been sleeping in the plastic chairs there for six years. “I stayed in shelters for four months, but the process is inefficient and I never felt safe,” she said. “The shelters are very bad for women, especially older women.” She told me she had become accustomed to sleeping sitting up on hard plastic. “You have no control of your life at the shelter,” she said. “At Oshun, I can come and go.”

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  26. You’d have no idea Zulema was a homeless woman who slept in a chair each night if you saw her on the street. She has flawless golden brown skin and a shiny gray bob. She often wears burgundy lipstick, khaki pants, a white button-down sweater and a jean jacket. She rides her bike for exercise and earns $400 a month selling flowers she buys from a wholesaler. She often drinks tea and reads the Bible at Starbucks. Advocates describe her as one of the few Oshun regulars who haven’t had the spirit beaten out of them.

    A case in point is the older woman I spoke with who had served in the military and said she’d been homeless for several decades. She warned me that every person I was talking to was lying. “Why would you believe any of them?” she screamed. “Not a damn thing has changed since 1931. It never will. You’re wasting your time.”

    Then there’s the physical toll the streets take. “Most homeless women in their 40s or 50s look like they are 70 or 80 because homelessness takes such a toll,” said O’Connor. “I no longer know if a homeless person is 50 or 80.”

    Marcia, the homeless woman I met in front of the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, is 56 and looks her age. Maybe that’s because she only became homeless at 50. She’s a black woman who walks with a cane. She throws a large backpack over her thick green jacket and often wears jeans and a black bandanna. She learned the hard way about navigating the chaotic and stressful world of homelessness in 2005, when her mother died. She and her sister were supposed to share the money from the sale of their family home, but Marcia had a stroke that left her visually impaired, and her sister took the money and left the state. Talking about her life since that time, she paused, shook her head and admitted that she’s still shocked to find herself living on the streets.

    “I didn’t even know this world existed before I became part of it,” she said. “When you’re homeless, you lose control of your environment. Most of the people I meet have mental illnesses. You never know when they’re going to snap. A quiet room can turn into chaos within minutes. I don’t sleep much.” Last year, Marcia testified in front of the city’s Shelter Monitoring Committee and offered a lengthy prescription for improvements, including an end to co-ed shelters so women feel safe. She also argued that the mentally ill should be kept separate from everyone else. But nothing changed. “Right now, we’re all lumped together,” she said. “It makes no sense.”

    Marcia lived in a single-room occupancy hotel for six months. But the rent ate up half of her $900 Social Security check, and because SROs generally don’t have kitchens, she spent much of the rest on prepared meals. By the third week of the month, she often had less than $10 left on her debit card. “I’ve never been that poor,” she said. “I couldn’t deal with it. I also didn’t feel safe on the same floor as men. The walls were thin and it wasn’t clean, so I left.” Life got much worse when she was hit by a car and injured in 2009. She reached out to relatives and friends but never got a response.

    “When you need something, everyone disappears,” Marcia said. She told me her goal at that point was to muster enough cash to buy a bus ticket to Reno, where she hoped to find an affordable place. Meanwhile, she tried not to think about suicide. “You get so depressed,” she said. “I’ve been able to maintain my sanity because I know how to withdraw. Like most homeless women I’ve met, I was molested as a child, so I know how to go inside of myself.” According to the National Center on Family Homelessness and the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a staggeringly high percentage of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual assault at some point in their lives.

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  27. Homelessness czar Bevan Dufty told me he was willing to talk with the women I’d met over the past few months, to explore their cases and contact their case managers about permanent housing options. The real problem, though, is the lack of affordable housing. “I can show you 27,000 individuals on the public housing list,” he said. “We’re dealing with a very big problem. We’re talking about a city that’s very expensive.”

    Of 155,000 seniors living in San Francisco, according to a report by the city’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, roughly 19,000 live below the federal poverty line: $10,326 per year for a single person age 65 or older, or $13,014 for a two-person household. Based on the Elder Economic Security Standard Index, 61 percent of San Francisco’s seniors don’t have enough income to meet their basic needs. Meanwhile, the country has endured years of trickle-down economics, welfare cutbacks, rising income inequality, attacks on unions and the privatization of public services. Those are only some of the factors WRAP spelled out as causes of homelessness in its report “Without Housing.” And perhaps the biggest factor affecting older homeless women: the government turned housing over to the private market in the 1970s, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget was slashed by 77 percent between 1978 and 1983.

    No wonder Paul Boden of WRAP said that the situation for the older homeless population has gotten progressively worse since the 1980s. “Back then, I could get a senior a nice room in an SRO hotel within the Section 8 program,” he told me. “Today, you can’t get them shit.”

    The city is now looking into ways to house homeless individuals with medical needs that exceed the capacity of the emergency shelters to handle. “The most vulnerable can’t stand in line for hours at a time,” said Amanda Kahn Fried, policy director at HOPE, the city’s Housing, Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement office. Some of these people, she noted, “are at the point in their life where they can’t take care of themselves. They’re either too old or too sick and can’t get out of bed or get to the bathroom.”

    The city’s current efforts have some homeless advocates feeling hopeful. But for others, like James Powell at the Canon Kip Center, they’re a reminder of earlier attempts that ended in frustration. Ideas would be floated, meetings held, solutions discussed—and then nothing would happen. Maybe that’s the silver lining in a situation that has gotten so bad, Powell said.

    “This is getting above the point of focus groups and closed-door meetings,” he added. “We’re on the verge of an implosion. We can’t continue to ignore all of these people who are suffering. We have no choice but to listen and act.”

    Addressing the problems of the poor is the mission of Nation.com blogger Greg Kaufman’s This Week in Poverty. His latest dispatch: “An Anti-Poverty Contract for 2013?”


  28. 30 Victoria homeless deaths in 4 months draw inquest calls

    Causes of death range from pneumonia to overdose to suicide

    CBC News February 27, 2013

    An anti-poverty group in Victoria wants the regional coroner to hold an inquest into 30 deaths among the city's street population over the past four months.

    While the causes of death range from pneumonia to overdose to suicide, the Poverty Law Club at the University of Victoria says the number of deaths has tripled since the same time last year.

    Yanni Pappas-Acreman says an inquest could help find ways to prevent poverty-related deaths in the future.

    "It is within their power to conduct any inquest that's been reported to them on a class of deaths such as this that are related if it is in the public interest, and we think it is in the public interest,” she said.

    "What we would hope to get out of it would be more information about the causes of death, but more importantly, recommendations leading from those facts."

    Death Review Panel

    Spokeswoman Barb McLintock says the B.C. Coroners Service is considering whether to convene a Death Review Panel instead of an inquest.

    She says it would bring together a group of experts to examine a range of deaths among one group.

    "The experts sit down for a few days and look at the issues surrounding this and then see if they can come up with some recommendations, which are like inquest recommendations,” she said.

    “They're passed on to the chief coroner and then the agencies involved.”

    McLintock says it will likely take another month to make a decision about the review.


  29. The Community of the Undomiciled: Thomas Napper's "Lost Angels: Skid Row Is My Home"

    By Eleanor J Bader, Truthout | Movie Review March 28, 2013

    Thomas Q. Napper's award-winning documentary, "Lost Angels", writes Bader, "highlights the friendship, camaraderie and kindness that exist among the more than 11,000 undomiciled people - two-thirds of whom are struggling with psychiatric problems, drug addiction, or both" - living in LA's Skid Row.

    "Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home," a film by Thomas Q. Napper, narrated by Catherine Keener, 75 minutes. Released on DVD March 19, 2013, by Cinema Libre Studio. http://www.cinemalibrestudio.com/

    Mollie Lowrey, founder and former executive director of Lamp Community, a program for homeless people in Los Angeles, describes that city's Skid Row as "an open asylum for the mentally ill" in Thomas Q. Napper's award-winning documentary, Lost Angels. But the film not only showcases people's deficits, it also highlights the friendship, camaraderie and kindness that exist among the more than 11,000 undomiciled people -two-thirds of whom are struggling with psychiatric problems, drug addiction, or both -who call the area home.

    It's inspiring and awful, humbling and infuriating.

    "Everyone on Skid Row has a story," narrator Catherine Keener says early in the movie. And it is these stories - or at least the eight that Napper features in Lost Angels - that remind us that life is often precarious, and the collision between substance abuse, mental and physical illness, poverty and bad luck can cause a precipitous decline in just about anyone's opportunities and choices. Add in the loss of thousands of units of low-cost housing, the closing of hospitals offering long-term psychiatric care and rampant gentrification, and it's not surprising that there's a crisis writ large.

    "We don't have closed asylums anymore," Lowrey continues, "except for our jails and our prisons. LA County Twin Towers Jail is the largest mental institution in the United States. We no longer hospitalize the mentally ill; we criminalize them because of their behavior on the streets."

    This reality is obvious to most of the people in Lost Angels, many of whom languished for years before finding real help. Danny Harris is a case in point. Harris was born in Compton, California, and says that he began smoking weed in high school. Nonetheless, he excelled in track and field, was recruited to Iowa State University, and was given a full scholarship. At the end of his first year, 1984, the 18-year-old Harris secured a spot on the US Olympic Team and won a silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles. Three years later, he won another silver medal at the international championships in Rome. For a while he was on top of the world - lucrative endorsement deals flew fast and furious. But the high life began to shatter when, in 1996, Harris tested positive for cocaine and was promptly banished from the sport.

    "I'd been freebasing cocaine since 1988," he tells the filmmakers. "This was the beginning of a 20-year addiction." Harris matter-of-factly describes his descent, including "lying down on the sidewalk," but admits that his first foray onto Skid Row left him "pretty much horrified." Still, he felt that he had no choice but to stay on the streets and keep using drugs. Then, in 2007, a chance encounter with a recovering addict employed by the Midnight Mission in downtown LA motivated him to begin the arduous process of getting clean.

    A year hence, in a twist befitting a fairy tale, the newly sober Harris returned to Iowa State to complete the undergraduate degree he'd started 25 years earlier. He has since returned to LA, bachelor's degree in hand, and presently works as assistant to the Midnight Mission's president.

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  30. Harris' recovery is not the only miracle noted in the film. Manuel "OG" Compito lived on the lam in Buffalo, New York, for eight years before being extradited back to Los Angeles. After serving a lengthy jail sentence, OG ended up on Skid Row, where the area's filth enraged him. In short order he created OG's N Service, a volunteer "brigade" that clears away garbage on San Julian and surrounding streets each and every day.

    Others, including former gang member and ex-felon Steve "General Dogon" Richardson, also came to Skid Row after being imprisoned. The most political of the interviewees, Richardson now works for the Los Angeles Community Action Network, LACAN, to protect the human and civil rights of Skid Row's denizens and protest ongoing police brutality.

    It's an enormous task. "For years, politicians turned a blind eye to Skid Row,” narrator Keener reports. That changed in 2006 when the city launched the Safer Communities Initiative, a $6 million a year effort that was touted as a comprehensive approach to helping people living on the streets. The theory, promulgated by Police Commissioner William Bratton, utilized the Broken Windows theory that previously had been implemented in New York City. The upshot was that minor infractions were targeted; in its first year alone, 9,000 people were arrested and 12,000 were given citations for jaywalking, sitting or sleeping on the sidewalk, or dozing in city parks.

    The policy - still in place - continues to anger those on Skid Row. "If you have a beer in your hand it's like you murdered someone," one resident quips.

    Meanwhile, the needs of most Skid Row residents remain unmet.

    Lee Anne Leven, an elderly woman on the streets for 20-plus years, takes an enormous shopping cart filled with rubble everywhere she goes. "There is no clean, fresh water for the cats," she grumbles. Her job, she continues, is to patrol the streets and leave food and water for the many strays she encounters.

    "One day I saw some guy bothering her," says Kevin "KK" Cohen, an articulate, soft-spoken man who appears as Leven's constant companion in the film. Cohen says that he immediately intervened and, from that day forward, Lee Anne "adopted me as her fiancé." Sure, he laughs, "she has storage units filled with trash that she pays for every month, but it's what she likes. I would defend her with my life."

    His dream, to live on a horse farm with Lee Anne - he fantasizes about it as a place where she could collect as many containers and newspapers as she wanted and take in dozens of cats - was cut short in 2009 when he was murdered in a Skid Row lodging house. News of his passing - revealed at the end of the film - is shocking, and gives viewers a vivid glimpse into the dangers lurking on, or near, the neighborhood's streets. At the same time, this is not a film steeped in random or intentional violence. In fact,Lost Angels celebrates men and women who live, work and create despite significant obstacles. Their spirit - in defying convention and challenging more mainstream notions of productivity and community - even as they battle psychological demons, is incredible.

    Keener calls Skid Row a place of contradictions and presents it as a refuge filled with danger. She further reports that it is a place where healing and recovery are as possible as violence and death. Yes, schizophrenia, dementia, substance abuse, alcoholism and street fights are on display in Lost Angels. At the same time, generosity, love and true friendship are also visible. Indeed, unlikely as it sounds, there is great beauty to behold on the streets of Skid Row. It's something to remember as we work to formulate respectful strategies to alleviate hunger, homelessness and want.


  31. Sign up to fight for Affordable Housing for All in the 2013 BC Election




    We demand immediate provincial government housing action to solve the housing crisis in BC:

    1. Build 10,000 units of good quality social housing per year.

    2. Prioritize social housing units for Indigenous Peoples, migrants, women, seniors, people with mental health and physical disabilities including HIV/AIDs, and vulnerable low-income people who are disproportionately at risk of homelessness and hidden homelessness.

    3. Save existing low rent housing by enforcing maintenance standards; maintain non-market projects whose operating agreements are expiring; freeze rents & don’t allow increased rents when tenants move; and close loopholes in the Residential Tenancy Act to stop renovictions.

    4. Protect tenants. Recognize tenant unions and their power to negotiate with landlords; Make all supportive & student housing fully covered by the Residential Tenancy Act.

    5. Include everyone who needs housing. End eligibility discrimination and make all BC residents eligible for BC Housing. Extend housing rights to temporary migrant workers by granting them permanent legal status.

    6. Fund social housing through taxation as a social responsibility of the government, and support residents of communities to develop and manage their social housing themselves.


    11,000 are homeless in British Columbia

    40,000 are hidden homeless (e.g. couch surfing)

    66,000 people are at risk of homelessness in British Columbia due to high rents

    A political decision is required: for example, If just 1% of provincial GDP was invested in housing this crisis would be solved in 15 years.

    Join the fight for Social Housing and Tenant Rights in the May 2013 BC Election!

    STAND UP for SOCIAL HOUSING NOW! Saturdays from noon to 1:00 p.m.

    Find background information and stand locations on our website: http://socialhousingbc.com

  32. Social housing group left wanting more from both Libs, NDP on 'urgent' crisis

    By DAVID P. BALL THE TYEE April 3, 2013

    Although the BC New Democrats have not released their election platform yet, the party's housing critic is pushing for the province to take a "leading role at the table" on affordable housing, including direct investment in new social housing units.

    But activists with the Social Housing Coalition accuse the party of not taking B.C.'s housing crisis seriously enough, and last night they pamphleted with a banner outside an NDP fundraiser in Vancouver, a performance they'll repeat at another party faithful event tomorrow in hopes of garnering concrete commitments in imminent campaign promises.

    Joe Trasolini, NDP Critic for Housing, Construction and Business Investment, said the housing strategy he'll put forward will bring together federal and municipal governments, non-profits, housing advocates and private interests, with the province taking a leading role to increase housing stock across B.C.

    "We need new supply. Whenever there is supply that comes on the market, it relieves the pressure on vacancy. When you don't have enough vacancy... landlords can get away with a lot more than when there is more supply of rental units. I've met with a lot of housing advocates who have shovel-ready projects that have been reviewed by BC Housing staff... and they've been found to be very much needed, qualify for government partnerships, but nothing is happening. They're told that there's no money," he told The Tyee.

    The BC Liberals have made new housing-related announcements almost every week over the last several months, with press releases lauding new investment and hundreds of units in seniors housing, emergency homeless shelters, and single room occupancy (SRO) renovations.

    And while critics claim the province and feds alike are not "at the table" to the degree they would like, in March the B.C. government announced a new federal partnership to help "vulnerable" people with housing in the province, dubbed the Federal-Provincial Housing (FPH) initiative.

    Funding for that affordability program totals roughly $155 million, the government said, plus $45 million through a variety of measures such as contributions for capital costs, exempting some fees for development, and property tax breaks.

    "The B.C. government believes in strong partnerships and with shared funding from the federal and provincial governments, as well as local governments and community organizations," Housing Minister Rich Coleman stated. "We're increasing the number of housing options available to people most at risk across the province.

    "The funding made available through this program is already contributing to affordable and supportive housing solutions to help those in need."

    While Trasolini said that the government's initiatives are only enough to maintain -- not expand -- B.C.'s housing stock, outside his party's fundraiser at Vancouver's Bill Reid Gallery last night, coalition activists questioned whether the MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam or his party are treating the housing crisis as "urgent."

    continued in next comment...

  33. They launched a petition for social housing in B.C., and chief among their demands is that the province build "10,000 units of good quality social housing per year"; prioritizing housing for vulnerable or marginalized people such as indigenous people, seniors, and immigrants; enforcing maintenance laws on cheap rental hotels; and increasing taxes to fund more social housing.

    The housing activists hope "to push for the NDP, or whoever gets into the provincial leadership, to do something about it," one pamphleteer told The Tyee.

    "We've hit the NDP on a few occasions," said Dave Diewert, with the Social Housing Coalition. "They completely waffle on the housing front... they are very non-committal, and don't seem to have a very strong sense of urgency around this issue, and will probably not do anything. From what they've been saying, it sounds virtually like the status quo. That's just not acceptable."

    That status quo is what the coalition is calling one of the province's greatest crises, one that Diewert argued has been "mystified and played down" by all parties.

    "There's a sentiment that we've taken care of it all, that we've built a ton of housing and everybody's okay," he explained. "It's missing a huge sector in the province who not only live in poverty, but also has to struggle on the housing front -- indigenous people, new immigrants, temporary foreign workers, youth, seniors, women. Across the board, there's a huge need."

    Trasolini told The Tyee he is committed to re-investing financially in social housing if the NDP wins the election, as well as working with the private sector, municipal and federal governments, and non-profits to increase the stock of both rental and supportive housing. But as for 10,000 new units built a year as the coalition demands, those levels may be "accurate" in terms of need, he said, but they are unlikely to be met regardless of which party forms government after May 14.

    "Insofar as saying that any government could come up with 10,000 units in one year, it might be a stretch," he said. "There has to be a start -- a comprehensive plan that we undertake a step at a time, starting right away -- and doing as much as we can in one year, and making a commitment for following years.

    "It's probably an accurate number of need. Nobody's going to argue about the need. I've seen it first-hand."

    For Jim Sinclair, president of the BC Federation of Labour -- one of roughly 150 NDP donors attending last night's fundraiser, alongside representatives of the construction industry, energy firms, unions and others -- housing should be a priority for the party.

    Sinclair said he hopes the NDP lives up to its past commitment to build new social housing, even if it costs taxpayers to fix the problem. He also criticized the BC Liberal government's record on the issue.

    "They've bought some Downtown Eastside hotels, but that didn't increase the number of units. It just saved some of the units that were there. It's going to take money. The big challenge that we've got as a province is (that) we're going to have to fix these problems by paying for them."

    The Social Housing Coalition has planned another pamphleting rally outside the BC NDP's Business Leader dinner tomorrow at the Molson Brewery, as well as at the premier's fundraising dinner at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Monday.


  34. Abbotsford, B.C., sorry for using manure to drive out homeless

    'War on the homeless' treats homeless like 'animals,' local advocate says

    CBC News June 5, 2013

    The City of Abbotsford has apologized for spreading chicken manure over a popular gathering place for the homeless in an apparent bid to drive them out of the city.

    "I am deeply sorry for our actions," city manager George Murray wrote in an email obtained by CBC News.

    "As city manager, I take this situation very seriously and retain full responsibility for the manner in which we dealt with this incident."

    The practice of using chicken manure to drive away the homeless came to light after local advocate James W. Breckenridge wrote a column titled "This Stinks" in the Abbotsford Today community newspaper.

    According to Breckenridge, the city has waged an "ongoing war on the homeless," driving people "from spot to spot around Abbotsford like nuisance animals."

    Meanwhile, the city has failed to provide a viable housing alternative to camping for the homeless, Breckenridge says.

    The City of Surrey used a similar tactic in 2009 — spreading chicken manure outside a busy resource centre for the homeless — but was forced to remove it following outrage from community members.

    In Abbotsford, Murray has vowed the city will remove the manure from the site and work with the community to resolve the issue.


    Surrey, B.C., probing who hatched chicken manure scheme

  35. Police slashed homeless tents, say advocates in Abbotsford, B.C.

    Follows scandal of chicken manure dumping to drive out homeless

    CBC News June 17, 2013

    The Abbotsford, B.C., police chief has ordered an investigation into allegations the city's officers destroyed tents belonging to homeless people, in a second controversy over how the city treats its homeless.

    "Slashing tents is something we've heard a lot of over the years, where they'll go in and they'll use a knife or whatever to cut up tents, but the [use of] bear mace is the new thing,” said Pastor Ward Draper of The 5 and 2 Ministries, a Christian charity which helps Abbotsford's homeless.

    “They'll open the tent and coat everything inside so it's absolutely useless," Draper said.

    The new allegation comes less than two weeks after the city manager was forced to apologize for dumping manure in a park in an effort to chase away the homeless.

    The latest allegations — this time against the police — were made at a community consultation held last week in the wake of the chicken manure scandal.

    About a dozen tents belonging to homeless people had been slashed in the last three months, Draper told a meeting of the Abbotsford Social Development Advisory Committee.

    On Friday, Chief Const. Bob Rich asked the B.C. Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner — an independent agency that oversees public complaints against the police — to look into the incident, a police spokesman said.

    “There weren't specific officers that were cited and there wasn't a location that was provided,” said Const. Ian MacDonald.

    “But we were concerned enough with the suggestion Abbotsford police officers were involved that we decided an investigation was necessary and it was necessary with civilian oversight," he added.

    MacDonald said police are urging anyone with information to come forward. He said that if any of the allegations are proven, the force will hold the officers involved accountable.


  36. 30,000 Canadians are homeless every night

    200,000 Canadians are homeless in any given year, national report says

    CBC News June 19, 2013

    Despite sporadic success in addressing homelessness in Canada, little progress has been made toward a permanent cross-country solution, says a national report into the extent of the problem.

    The report's initial numbers tell a grim story. Among the report's findings:

    --At least 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness in any given year.

    --At least 150,000 Canadians a year use a homeless shelter at some point.

    --At least 30,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night.

    --At least 50,000 Canadians are part of the "hidden homeless" on any given night — staying with friends or relatives on a temporary basis as they have nowhere else to go.

    Those numbers come from the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN) and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, the groups behind what they call the first extensive national report card on homelessness.

    Their look at the state of homelessness in Canada found that annual shelter use did not change substantially from 2005 to 2009, while the average stay grew longer.

    As a result, the report's authors say, it's time the country shifted its focus from crisis management — from things like emergency shelter beds and soup kitchens — to more permanent solutions.

    "When we start warehousing people, it can lead to a sense of complacency: well, it isn't the best situation to be sleeping with 50 other strangers in a room but it's a best we can do," said Stephen Gaetz, the lead author of the report and the director of the CHRN.

    "The reality is it isn't the best we can do at all."

    Who is homeless?

    While the homeless can come from any group, the report found that certain populations are over-represented:

    --Single adult males between the ages of 25 and 55 account for almost half the homeless population (47.5 per cent).

    --Youth between the ages of 16 and 24 account for 20 per cent of the homeless. An estimated 25 to 40 per cent of homeless youth are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual or transgender.

    --Aboriginal people are over-represented among the homeless in almost every urban centre in Canada, with the over-representation growing dramatically the more one heads west and north.

    Degrees of homelessness

    Of the 200,000 people who use homeless shelters in an average year, relatively few (4,000 to 8,000) are what the report's authors call "chronically homeless."

    A slightly higher number (6,000 to 22,000) are what they call "episodic homeless." These are people who move into and out of homeless shelters multiple times over several years.

    The vast majority of Canada's homeless (176,000 to 188,000) are "transitional homeless" — individuals and families who enter the shelter system for a short stay of generally less than a month. For them, homelessness is usually a one-time event.

    Even though the first two groups make up less than 15 per cent of the homeless population, they account for more than half of the resources of the homelessness system.

    People can be pushed into homelessness by a variety of factors — the loss of a job, mental illness, addictions, family violence or abuse, extreme poverty.

    Changes in the economy and in the housing market are adding to homelessness.

    The supply of affordable housing has not kept pace with the needs of the population. There has also been a decline in the amount of affordable rental housing in many cities. Combine that with declining incomes and a widespread reduction in social benefits for low-income Canadians, and you get a population that has to spend a greater percentage of its income on housing.

    continued in next comment...

  37. High rents and low vacancy rates put more pressure on the 30 per cent of Canadians who rent.

    Many more are increasingly vulnerable. The report estimates that as many as 1.5 million of Canada's 12 million households — those with low incomes and who are paying more than 30 per cent of their income on housing — are at risk of becoming homeless.

    Suggestions for change

    Despite few signs of a broad national turnaround in the homelessness problem, the authors see signs of progress.

    They highlight the federal government's Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which was renewed this past March for another five years. The strategy supports research on homelessness and works with communities in tackling the problem.

    But the report's authors say this investment has not been accompanied by "a robust and ongoing investment in affordable housing," which they say is a crucial part of solving the problem.

    Vicky Stergiopoulos, the psychiatrist-in-chief at St. Michael's Hospital in downtown Toronto, called the report “long overdue” and said she was hopeful its recommendation would be heeded.

    “The question will be, how do we transform programs and services that were designed to manage homelessness to programs and services that will end homelessness? That will require a phenomenal amount of leadership and community engagement,” she told CBC News.

    “We have the evidence base of what we need to do. What we lack is perhaps the know-how of how to do this transformation.”

    Several initiatives at the provincial and municipal level appear to be making progress. For instance, the province of Alberta announced a 10-year plan to end homelessness in 2008. Since then, the province has seen a 16 per cent reduction in homelessness.

    Bright spots at municipal, provincial levels
    Various homeless strategies have also been adopted in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Quebec.

    The efforts of some of Canada's big cities were also singled out.

    Vancouver, through a series of public and private partnerships, has achieved a 66 per cent reduction in street homelessness.

    Calgary and Edmonton have also seen significant reductions in homelessness. Edmonton's 30 per cent reduction in homelessness since 2008 leads the country's big cities.

    Toronto has also seen a marked decline in street homelessness, with the city's outreach programs getting much of the credit.

    The report calls for all communities to develop clear plans to end homelessness, with the support of other levels of government. It also calls for a dramatic increase in the supply of affordable housing.

    "Canada will not see a sustained reduction in homelessness without a significant increase in the affordable housing supply," the authors write.

    Priority attention should be paid to the needs of the aboriginal homeless. It also calls for a focus on reducing the ranks of the chronically or frequently homeless. "No one should be homeless and using emergency services for any longer than a few weeks."

    The authors also say the country needs better data collection so communities can determine the full extent of their homelessness problem and take steps to address it effectively.

    "Those decisions on how to respond to homelessness need to be based on evidence, what we know that works, not just on ideas we pull out of the air," Gaetz said.

    "We have to move forward with solid evidence on how to do this. We've got some of that evidence but now it's time to scale it up across the country and get everybody pulling in the right direction."


    The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013


  38. Manure dump at B.C. homeless camp could mean civil lawsuit

    City officials in Abbotsford, B.C., apologized after allegations came to light

    CBC News July 5, 2013

    The City of Abbotsford, B.C., could be facing a civil lawsuit after officials spread chicken manure over a popular gathering place for the homeless in an apparent bid to drive them out of the city.

    The group, being represented by the Pivot Legal Society, has issued a notice of damage to the city, saying they are contemplating a civil suit for “discrimination, harassment and loss of property.”

    Pivot lawyer DJ Larkin says the case is important because this wasn't an isolated incident.

    "Shortly after the chicken fertilizer incident happened in Abbotsford, the exact same tactic was attempted in another municipality in British Columbia and so we see this kind of thing happening over and over again across British Columbia, across the United States,” she said.

    “We think it's really important to take a stand and say homeless people need to be protected.”

    Both the mayor and city manager apologized after the incident came to light last month in a column written by a local advocate.

    A few weeks later, Abbotsford’s police chief revealed he was investigating allegations police officers slashed tents belonging to homeless people.

    The City of Abbotsford could not be reached for comment.

    The group now has six months to finalize their civil suit.


  39. Many implicated in manure dump at B.C. homeless site

    CBC News July 23, 2013

    Managers from multiple departments in the City of Abbotsford were involved in the decision to dump chicken manure on a known gathering site for the homeless, internal documents show.

    The manure was dumped at a site along Gladys Road in early June to deter homeless people and apparent drug users from congregating there.

    At the time, city manager George Murray apologized and took responsibility for the action.

    Emails obtained by the CBC through an access to information request show that managers from the city's bylaw, forestry and parks departments were all involved.

    In one email, dated June 3, Eric Fong, a City of Abbotsford forestry official, refers to an agreement between officials from Abbotsford's bylaws and roads departments "to spread the chicken manure around [a] tree to deter homeless encampments being set up under it."

    He emailed the city's acting director of parks services, James Arden, for approval to go ahead with "the manure dump" the following morning.

    Arden approved the request within minutes, noting: "I am glad that we were able to get the product for free and avoid cutting down a healthy trees [sic] to see if that resolves the issue," he added.

    The tree — called "the Honey tree" in the subject of the email — refers to a cedar outside the Salvation Army building in Abbotsford, where homeless people often set up camps.

    After the story broke in the media, a city official named Shawn Gurney wrote to Arden on June 6, saying: "For what it's worth, although I wasn't directly dealing with this one, I believe the intent had nothing to do with homeless folks. I believe it was done to deter acts of prostitution and drug use occurring in view of the public under the tree."

    Arden seems to confirm that intention, writing back, "I know, but it has become something else in the eye of the beholder!"

    He also suggests that the city manager took the fall for his decision, writing, "I own the decision and George [Murray] is owning it for the entire City team."

    When contacted, Murray would not comment if any manager had faced discipline over the decision.

    Despite the claim in the email, Const. Ian MacDonald of the Abbotsford Police Department said no police officers were present during the dumping of the chicken manure at the Gladys Road site.

    The emails are part of a months-long discussion over the homeless gathering site, with ideas ranging from cutting down the tree, to trimming shrubs around it, and even dumping concrete blocks under it.

    Advocates for the homeless say the city has waged an "ongoing war on the homeless," driving people "from spot to spot around Abbotsford like nuisance animals," while failing to provide a viable housing alternative.

    Other Metro Vancouver cities like Port Moody and Surrey have also used the chicken manure tactic to drive out the homeless, and have been forced to apologize following public outrage.


  40. Shipping container social housing makes debut in Vancouver

    By COLLEEN KIMMETT, The Tyee August 2, 2013

    Back in 2010, former Tyee reporter Monte Paulsen proposed an unconventional solution to Vancouver's housing problem: use recycled shipping containers to build green, low-cost homes in the city. http://thetyee.ca/News/2010/04/12/GreenAffordable/

    In his three-part series, http://thetyee.ca/News/2010/04/11/OutOfTheBox/
    Paulsen found that these big steel boxes are essentially the ideal building blocks, "not only far more environmentally friendly but also significantly less expensive than the heavy concrete construction that has reshaped the city's skyline."

    His articles highlighted several innovative projects in London, Amsterdam and even Victoria.

    Three years later, shipping container housing has come to Vancouver.

    Yesterday, Atira Women's Resource Society, unveiled a 12-unit, three-level social housing project made of 12 recycled shipping containers. [see next comment] It's the first development of its kind in Canada. Each self-contained unit ranges from 280 to 290 square feet. The first occupants are expected to move in next month.

    According to Atira's chief executive director Janice Abbott, the hard construction costs were $82,500 per unit; significantly less expensive than the $220,000 cost per unit in a conventional concrete housing project.

    Abbott told The Province that preliminary work has already begun on another shipping container housing development.


  41. Recycled shipping containers now called home for DTES women


    VANCOUVER — The only telling signs that a new Downtown Eastside housing project at 502 Alexander St. is unusual are the corrugated steel walls, painted navy blue and burnt orange.

    The colourful walls are the exterior of 12 recycled shipping containers that form the base structure for the unique three-level, 12-unit development for women.

    “Once you put the containers on site and secure them, the construction is really similar to other forms of housing,” Atira Women’s Resource Society chief executive officer Janice Abbott said in an interview.

    “We spray-foam insulated everything and put up drywall and, as you can see, it’s not significantly different than any other apartment you might see anywhere else in Vancouver.”

    Canada’s first recycled shipping container social housing development features a dozen self-contained units ranging from 280 to 290 square feet in size and the first occupants are expected to move in next month.

    The development meets all building codes and exceeds code requirements for insulation and sound transference.

    Abbott noted the hard construction costs were $82,500 a unit, compared with about $220,000 a unit for a conventional concrete housing project Atira recently completed on Abbott Street, which features 320-square-foot units.

    The full Alexander Street project — including the heritage restoration of the adjacent 16-unit Imouto Housing for Young Women — cost $3.3 million, with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. contributing $2.6 million.

    The City of Vancouver kicked in $92,000 and councillor Kerry Jang noted the city normally would have contributed $120,000, or $10,000 a unit.

    “But because their costs were so much lower than normal, they didn’t need it,” he said.

    City council first investigated the concept of shipping container housing about four years ago, as similar projects had been built in Europe but none had ever been developed in Canada.

    Jang said one of the biggest challenges was overcoming the notion the project would “stack up poor people and warehouse them” in containers.

    “For us, the No. 1 thing is that it had to be livable, and when you look around, you can see they have really achieved that,” he said.

    continued below

  42. Four of the 12 recycled containers were donated — two from B.C. Hydro and two from private citizens — while eight were bought through a broker from Port Metro Vancouver.

    Project development manager James Weldon said the containers, worth from $4,000 to $5,000 each, contain steel that would normally be too expensive for this sort of development.

    “It’s kind of ironic that when it’s recycled like this, it becomes very affordable,” he said.

    Weldon said the innovative project came with a “phenomenal” learning curve for everyone involved.

    “It seems very simple and straightforward now but at the time, it was challenging for everybody because the industry isn’t used to working with this kind of material,” he said. “The next project like this will be more efficient and economical because we learned so much from this pilot project.”

    Abbott said preliminary work has already started on Atira’s plan to develop “a more sophisticated” shipping container housing development on a site at Hastings Street and Hawks Avenue. The society hopes to gain city approval to build 42 units in a seven-storey project that would require 42 recycled containers.

    The Alexander Street development features two different levels of non-market housing — six units that will cost occupants $375 a month and six whose rents will be determined by the resident’s annual income. Renters of the income-related units can earn a maximum of $34,000 a year and pay a maximum monthly rental of $850.

    Abbot said applications from potential residents will be reviewed next week and the society wants women over the age of 50 to occupy the $375-a-month units.

    “We want those women to participate in an intergenerational mentorship program with the young women who live next door (at the Imouto development),” she said. “We’re looking for women with roots in this community who want to give back and support young women to perhaps take different paths than they did.”


  43. Statscans data on poverty has become shaky

    The Globe and Mail, Editorial September 12 2013

    Critics who protested the federal government’s decision to cancel the long-form census have had their worst fears confirmed with the release this week of data from the survey that has replaced it. The National Household Survey is weakest and most unreliable in its data on low-income earners, which is exactly the danger that many observers foretold when the Harper government announced the cancellation of the long-form census in 2010.

    Statistics Canada acknowledged the survey’s problems prominently in Wednesday’s release, warning readers that new data for low-income earners “show markedly different trends than those derived from other surveys and administrative data.” This is a technical way of saying the data don’t appear to fit with other information on much the same topics, collected from other sources.

    Statscan also warns that, because of methodology changes, the 2011 survey results cannot be compared with 2006 census data to develop critical comparative statistics about changes in income. It means that despite spending over $650-million to collect data from Canadians – a cost increase of at least 15 per cent over the last census, in 2006 – this survey could not offer insight into such basic questions as whether the poor are getting poorer, or whether average incomes are rising or stagnating.

    The problem is that a census is a mandatory collection of data, while the new survey is entirely voluntary. The 2006 census had a response rate of 93.5 per cent, while the new survey had a response rate of 68.6 per cent. The difference wouldn’t be critical if everyone were equally likely or unlikely to respond, but this has never been the case. Low-income earners are typically less prone to answer voluntary surveys, so results tend to be skewed by a sample of respondents who are not representative of the whole population. The super-rich are no better, and economists have also noted they do not appear to have completed the new survey in significant numbers compared with their relative weight in the population.

    At both income extremes, it is unclear whether the survey data are reliable, with Statscan itself raising red flags about the low-income data. Income information is available from other sources, of course, but the point of doing an expensive national survey is to get comprehensive data that offer the best information to policy-makers. This has not happened. The solution is to acknowledge the weaknesses and convert the survey back into a proper national census.


  44. Toronto Public Housing Residents Bring Demands Straight to Feds

    Historic rally joins tenants and city officials in demand for repairs funding

    The Real News Network, Produced by Dyan Ruiz and Joseph Smooke November 23, 2013

    DYAN RUIZ, PRODUCER: In Toronto, Canada, public housing residents are fed up with decades of neglect and are demanding action. Rosie DaSilva lives in a public housing unit on this street. She's been waiting six years for her landlord to fix her kitchen cabinets. Her landlord is the city's public housing provider, Toronto Community Housing Corporation. TCHC is the second-largest public housing agency in North America.

    ROSIE DA SILVA, PUBLIC HOUSING RESIDENT: I pay the rent, and I expect in return that my landlord would treat me with respect, respond to the request for repairs, and to treat us civilly and like human beings.

    RUIZ: Rosie is far from the only person in Toronto waiting for repairs. TCHC has an $862 million repairs backlog. It's a problem that gets worse and worse every year, affecting many of the over 160,000 TCHC residents.

    In a historic protest, public housing residents brought their demand for repairs funding straight to the federal government on November 20. This was the first time Toronto public housing residents joined forces with city representatives and travelled to Ottawa to bring attention to the affordable housing crisis. The bus trip was organized by Toronto's Affordable Housing Office and Councillor Ana Bailão.


    CROWD: Housing!

    BAILÃO: Are you listening Mr. Prime Minister? What do we want?

    CROWD: Housing!

    BAILÃO: That's it! We want affordable housing! And we brought a bus of people, of residents, of stakeholders, one politician with the hearts of many politicians that were left at City Hall today, that are working to fight every day at City Hall for affordable housing for our city.

    RUIZ: We asked the president and CEO of TCHC what tenants have to deal with because of the repairs backlog.

    EUGENE JONES, PRESIDENT AND CEO, TORONTO COMMUNITY HOUSING: Mold, roof leakage, elevators not working. AC is not working. Heat's not working. Major systems are not working. It's not dire needs right now, but if we don't address it real quickly and soon, that's what we're going to be faced with. We're going to have to close down buildings and move our residents somewhere else.

    RUIZ: The main reason why the City of Toronto can't pay for the repairs is that they inherited the buildings from the federal and provincial government, which made the City responsible for all the public housing under TCHC.

    JONES: When they did that, enough capital dollars wasn't provided to Toronto Community Housing Corporation at that time. And so it just kept on growing and growing and growing.

    RUIZ: The repairs backlog is estimated to balloon to over $2.6 billion over the next ten years. Most of Toronto's public housing is over 40 years old. So the city is facing a huge spike in repair costs in the coming years.

    Councillor Bailão and her colleagues on the Affordable Housing Committee came up with a plan to deal with the backlog and started the "Close the Housing Gap" campaign. The plan includes a mix of measures enabling the city to pay a third of the cost of the backlog. They want the federal and provincial government to match that, asking for $864 million over the next ten years, so each level of government pays a third of the cost.

    continued below

  45. BAILÃO: We're looking into refinancing of mortgages. We're looking into energy efficiency projects. We're looking into efficiency in the operations of Toronto Community Housing. So all this we've been looking at. And we're putting more money from the City of Toronto into the Toronto Community Housing. So now we've done what we can. We need the provincial and federal government to step up instead of step back and join us.

    RUIZ: In a written statement to The Real News Network, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said the federal government will invest approximately $2 billion for housing this year. This amount includes all of Canada. Federal funds for affordable housing goes to both the maintenance of existing units and the building of new ones. But the people here say this level of funding is not nearly enough to meet the needs of Canada's largest city.

    SEAN GADON, DIRECTOR, TORONTO AFFORDABLE HOUSING OFFICE: They failed to tell you they're withdrawing it. So, yeah, a snapshot says, yeah, $2 billion, but 2030 nothing. It's a problem, a very serious problem. That's why we're here today. That's why they're not going away.

    RUIZ: Maintaining affordable housing isn't the only problem Toronto residents face. About as many people who live in public housing, over 160,000 people, are on the waitlist for affordable housing. Many people wait more than a decade.

    Sherri Williams is a public housing resident who spoke at the rally.

    SHERRI WILLIAMS, PUBLIC HOUSING RESIDENT: We have a crisis in Toronto of a very long wait list and a very big backlog of repairs to be done. So that's why I wanted to come.

    RUIZ: She was part of the busload full with 50 other residents and staff of public housing agencies, who were joined in Ottawa by politicians from throughout the nation. Cities across Canada are making affordable housing a top priority. Actions are planned on and around National Housing Day on November 22.

    BAILÃO: This is the first time that we're actually bringing the tenants to join us on our advocacy. Next week a lot of municipal leaders are going to come in here and through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities advocacy days. We wanted to make sure that the tenants were also involved.

    RUIZ: Karlene Steer still remembers the day she was told she got affordable housing for her and young sons.

    KARLENE STEER, PUBLIC HOUSING RESIDENT: One day I was at work and I was crying, praying, and said, oh, if they could just call me. And I went back up on the floor--I work at a hotel--and while I was up there, the supervisor come up and say, "Oh, there's a call for you." And I--"Somebody from housing called for you." So I went downstairs and I phoned, and she said, "Oh, I have a place for you if you want to go look at it." And it was very moving. It was like a big burden drop off my shoulder.

    RUIZ: Federal leaders from the NDP and the Liberal Party vowed to raise the issue of affordable housing in the House of Commons. Notably absent was a representative from the ruling Conservative government. In their statement to us, there was no mention of whether they plan to meet Toronto's demand to give an equal amount for the repair costs.

    This is Dyan Ruiz for The Real News Network.

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


  46. Canada’s prison population at all-time high

    Number of visible minority inmates increased by 75% in past decade

    By Maureen Brosnahan, CBC News November 25, 2013

    New figures show the number of visible minorities in Canadian prisons has increased by 75 per cent in the past decade, while the number and proportion of inmates who are Caucasian has declined significantly.

    As well, Canada’s prison population is now at its highest level ever, even though the crime rate has been decreasing over the past two decades. Ten years ago, the number of inmates in federal prisons was close to 12,000. It’s now more than 15,000.

    The statistics show that:

    - One in five inmates is over age 50.

    - The average level of education is Grade 8.

    - 80% of offenders have addiction or substance abuse problems.

    - 80% of federally sentenced women have been sexually abused.

    - 31% have Hepatitis C and 5% have HIV.

    - Almost half of all offenders required mental health care in the past year.

    These are just some of the statistics expected to be examined Tuesday, when the annual report of Correctional Investigator of Canada Howard Sapers is tabled in Parliament. His report is widely expected to be a scathing indictment of federal correctional policy.

    “You cannot reasonably claim to have a just society with incarceration rates like these,” Sapers said Sunday in a speech he gave at a church in Toronto.

    Sapers gave his audience a litany of grim figures. He pointed out that close to a quarter of all inmates are aboriginal even thought they make up only four per cent of the population. The rate of incarceration of aboriginal women increased by 80 per cent in the past decade.

    Sapers said the situation is particularly critical for black and aboriginal inmates.

    “These groups are over-represented in maximum security institutions and segregation placements. They are more likely to be subject to use of force interventions and incur a disproportionate number of institutional disciplinary charges. They are released later in their sentences and less likely to be granted day or full parole,” he said.

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  47. Sapers adds that overall spending in the Canadian justice system rose 23 per cent in the past decade. “During that same period, Canada’s crime rate fell by exactly the same proportion,” he said. It now costs an average of $110,000 a year to house a male inmate, nearly twice as much to imprison a female inmate.

    “The growth in the custody population appears to be policy, not crime driven. After all, crime rates are down while incarceration rates grow,” he said, adding that crime across Canada has been declining for more than a decade, long before the current government’s “tough on crime” agenda.

    Sapers said the United States, with one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, has changed course, having realized that more people in prison doesn’t mean safer streets. “If there was a relationship between public safety and incarceration, then the downtowns of the big American cities would be the safest environments in the world; they’re not,” he said.

    The federal budget for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has increased 40 per cent to $2.6 billion in the past five years, most of it being spent on building 2,700 new cells. Even then, Sapers said more than 20 per cent of inmates are now double-bunked in cells designed for one inmate. It’s a practice that was uncommon in the past and Sapers says is now leading to growing tensions inside prisons.

    He compares it to a time 40 years ago when prison riots in Canada were common, including the infamous riot at the now-closed Kingston Penitentiary. “Many of the same problems that fuelled that explosion are still with us, crowding, too much time spent in cells; lack of contact with the outside world, lack of program capacity, the paucity of meaningful prison work or vocational skills training and polarization between inmates and custodial staff.”

    Sapers said many of the inmates are sick and elderly and by law require health care which last year cost the corrections system $210 million.

    Under Canadian law, prison is supposed to be seen as a last resort and should be used as little as possible for the shortest time necessary. As well, it says prisoners continue to have human rights and are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment.

    Sapers says recent changes by the government that see inmates serving longer sentences, cuts in prison pay and imposing austere conditions do little to improve public safety; instead, he says it makes it more difficult to rehabilitate and reintegrate them back into society upon their release.


  48. Inspiring Shipping Container Housing Set to Multiply

    Five months after launching its prototype, Atira aims for a seven-storey recycled tower.

    By David P. Ball, The Tyee January 30, 2014

    [Editor's note: Four years ago, three stories by Tyee Solutions Society reporter Monte Paulson put the spotlight on an offbeat idea: repurposing surplus shipping containers as shells for affordable housing. Those reports helped catalyze a change in municipal attitudes towards both shelter and steel boxes. And as Tyee Solutions Society reporter David P. Ball found out, Vancouver's first container-built community is spurring ambitions for more.]

    Two women chop vegetables at a large central table in a tight common kitchen, chatting as they gently drop celery and red peppers into a central bowl, destined for snacks during upcoming community programs. A stream of younger women move in and out of the space from the other rooms at Imouto Housing for Young Women, talking happily with each other.

    "What a beautiful place it is!" Gayle, one of the snack-preparers tells me. "I love the opportunity for community with the other women, because we have so much in common."

    Mostly, however, Gayle (who only provided her first name) loves having her own home. She says she had been "traveling around a lot," staying with friends or nannying her granddaughter. In late November, she moved into a corrugated metal shipping container on the adjacent city-owned property.

    Operated by Atira Women's Resource Society, the 12 shipping containers stacked three-storeys high at 502 Alexander Street in Vancouver are finally full of tenants five months after opening their doors on Sept. 1. At 280 to 290 square feet, each suite is a self-contained home with wood laminate flooring, a separate entrance, and its own bathroom and -- best of all, three tenants told me -- a European-style combined washer-dryer machine. In each unit, a full container wall has been replaced by a giant window, many with perfect views of the harbour or the complex's central courtyard garden.

    "I love that it's my own space," Gayle says, laughing heartily. "Just walking in through your door; [your neighbours] invite you over for tea."

    Across the Imouto kitchen table, Ahjahla Nelson chimes in. She used to live in co-operative housing, but gave up her apartment for a friend and moved here in October.

    "When I saw the container home, I'd been thinking of a trailer or treehouse or something," she recalls. "It was like a dream come true. Being able to enter your place from the outside has a real home-feeling to it. It just felt like it was built for me."

    Media attention may have dropped away since Atira did a flurry of interviews about the then-empty containers last August. But as they've filled with tenants -- six units for older women who serve as "intergenerational mentors" to six younger women -- the windows have become cluttered with knick-knacks and personal decorations, and the common kitchen at neighbouring Imouto is getting busier, even though each container has its own kitchen space.

    Community, it seems, is forming.

    "It's really in its infancy," says Atira CEO Janice Abbott over coffee in a nearby Downtown Eastside café. "It's been interesting to see this little community of women come together around this new, unique kind of construction. They feel really proud to live there. It'll be interesting in a year from now to see how that community develops, but it's inspiring to watch it."

    Abbott always had faith the exquisitely-staged, architecturally-repurposed containers would prove "how liveable small spaces can be," she says.

    "Even though I was a believer in the beginning, the containers look a hundred times better than I ever imagined they could," she says. "They're really beautiful."

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  49. In addition to the 12 container suites, the $3.3-million construction paid for 19 other non-market rental units as well as a heritage restoration of the Imouto building. The project was built on a city-owned lot in partnership with Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation and BC Hydro.

    With the suites quickly filled, Atira intends to submit a rezoning application by the end of January for a property it already owns in Strathcona. But the organization plans to go a step further: a seven-storey-high shipping container housing complex, with its requisite elevator and a new design.

    The site at the corner of Hawks and Hastings streets has the same square-footage as the one where the pilot project sits, but it's a different shape and the new structure aims for twice the height of the first, all requiring a new architectural plan. Unlike the bachelor-suite prototypes at Imouto, the new family-oriented project will transform shipping containers into a mix of one and two-bedroom units.

    One challenge will be securing the necessary land rezoning from light-industrial to residential, for which Atira will submit its application by "the end of the month," Abbott says. Another will be to try to scale down the $82,500 per-unit costs. Abbott says the pilot version spared no expense with some of its "premium elements" -- the fixtures, countertops and so on -- because she wanted the units "to show well" as the first container housing in Canada.

    "There were a bunch of cost premiums associated with building the first," she said. "The square-foot costs are really high, they really are, but what costs money in any unit are the kitchen cabinets, the plumbing, the fixtures, the bathrooms... it's going to take a few projects to figure out."

    Happily contained

    Climbing the stairs beside the current three-storey container complex at Imouto, the blue and orange corrugated metal is icy to the touch. A bitter wind sweeps in from the port to the north.

    A smiling woman with curly white hair and round blue glasses opens her door, and I'm greeted by an enveloping warmth and a slight scent of roses. Susan Edwards beckons me to sit at her small kitchen table as the CBC hourly news jingle chimes in the background, where a mattress is pushed neatly against the wall-length window.

    The radio is always on, she tells me, harkening back to her work years ago as co-host of CBC Radio's morning show in Saint John, New Brunswick. She misses the excitement of broadcasting, but not the anxiety.

    In the four years since she moved to Vancouver, where her daughter lives, Edwards has moved five times for a variety of reasons all-too-common among the city's renters.

    "It's been just incredibly difficult to find a place to live," she said. "I went through the experience of renoviction, I saw it happen to a lot of neighbours too... then I saw a TV item about [Atira's container project], and thought, 'Oh my gosh, look at that!'"

    Edwards was the first tenant to move into the pilot project in September. Her unit looks out over Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains. She has mingled photos of her family with goalie Robert Luongo on the wall beside her entrance. A quiet, rhythmic churning sound emanates from the corner of the home.

    "Listen to that magic washing machine!" she says excitedly. "You put your clothes in and they come out dry. How could anything be more efficient?! The space is amazing."

    Although Edwards doesn't consider herself a "mentor" to the younger women in the enclave, she attends communal gatherings and has formed a bond with some of the other tenants.

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  50. During the holidays, she painted a portrait of the block and had Christmas cards printed with the image. One card is addressed to the young women in the Imouto community, and sits in the main building across the courtyard.

    "You have much to teach all of us," Edwards wrote them, "and beautiful spirits that I sense in your presence. May the year ahead be one of blossoms and sunshine, so your music will be heard."

    Joining us in the unit is the manager of Atira's intergeneration mentorship program, Jennifer Kleinsteuber, who argues that Edwards is plays a vital role in the community. Many of the younger residents have struggled with addiction, mental health and poverty, but are seeking a new life.

    "One woman told me, 'I get to have a safe place to be so I can make some positive changes in my life," Kleinsteuber says. "She came here, and it was like a fresh start in life. She's just flourishing, she's blooming."

    As an artist, Edwards is fascinated by architecture and design and believes this kind of housing -- using recycled containers as the structure to lower costs -- could be replicated "everywhere."

    "It's amazing to do housing of this kind," she said. "I wish I could promote that angle of things. The program is developing here, it will take time. It's a really interesting work-in-progress."

    'A sort of protection'

    With its ever-expanding collection of properties in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Atira is not without its detractors. So it's no surprise some people scoffed at the optics of the project.

    "There was a lot of hesitation about housing women in shipping crates," Kleinsteuber admits. "But I didn't have the same kind of emotional reaction as a lot of people. I read about how they are doing student residences in the Netherlands, and in the U.S. people are making studios out of shipping containers. In the end, there was amazement at how beautiful these looked on the outside and on the inside."

    Other tenants like Gayle developed a keen interest in the raised-bed gardens in the courtyard between the containers, which were the source of herbs and seasonings for the community's turkey suppers over the holidays.

    "I have ideas in my head about things to do," she says. "The mentoring really interests me."

    But even more so the gardening, she adds with a broad smile. "I'm really a foodie; I'm into food security and food sovereignty. [There are] so many things we could do right at this location."

    Describing herself as a poet who likes "to look deeper into things," Ahjahla Nelson pauses from chopping vegetables across the table to philosophize about container living.

    "What does it mean to be contained?" she muses. "Will it contain who you are, your emotions? I see [this project] as a sort of protection."

    When she was accepted into the new Imouto container suites, her "heart was really happy" to finally live "someplace I could call my home, that surrounded me."

    "I've been in 16 different foster homes; you learn to get along with each other and help each other out. I felt like I really fit in here," she adds. "It's a little contained community."


  51. BC Couple Paid 550 A Month To Live In A Van

    Castanet | By Bill Everitt October 3, 2014

    A family is packing their belongings after spending the hot months of summer renting a derelict van at the Pleasant View Hotel and RV Park in Summerland.

    The Pleasant View Hotel and RV Park is at 13608 Highway 97 across from the Dairy Queen and south of the Husky gas station. Interior Health documents regarding a problem with the water quality in the pool at Pleasant View indicate the owner is a man named Shanguang Wang, known to the renters as Walter.

    Sonja Carr and her boyfriend Josh Muskego said they were living in the Holiday House Motel in Penticton, also owned by Wang and were forced to move when the high season hit.

    With nowhere to go and thinking they were moving into a trailer in his RV park, Carr and Muskego were surprised when they realized their choices were either to camp in a tent or move into a van.

    Both are currently unemployed and on welfare. With no money to move, they have been living there ever since. To add to the situation, Carr is four months pregnant.

    "There's no bathroom, no kitchen, I have an extension cord running (from the hotel) and my tap of water is over here at the side of the motel building. My bathroom I have to share with friends or go to the Husky," Carr said.

    Carr said Wang tried to evict them earlier in the summer because they had set up a tarp to create some shade between the van and a nearby swing set.

    "He phoned the police and tried to evict me because I put up a tarp. Eventually he told me to just get it off the swing set. It's been a really stressful summer," she said. "You have no idea how hot it has been."

    This time, they're being evicted for being behind on rent.

    "He wanted $550 a month for it. I paid him $315 so, because I'm behind in my rent, because I didn't think that was worth $550, we're out.

    "He said it would erase what I owe if I just moved out, so I said 'Ok, off we go.'" They had to be out by Oct. 1. They say they were never served an official eviction notice.

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  52. Bylaw enforcement officer Gary Ellis was on the scene taking pictures Wednesday. He said he had just become aware of the illegal units.

    "I don't know how long they've been here, I don't know the history. I just got this myself," he said. "They have two days to vacate and if we still have unsightly vehicles here, I will have them removed."

    On Thursday the District of Summerland said the matter was under investigation, but it was unclear whether any laws or bylaws were being broken by Wang.

    Walter Wang said the couple owe him thousands of dollars in unpaid rent dating back to 2013, when they were staying at the Holiday House.

    "They stayed in the Holiday House Hotel, and they owed me a couple of thousand dollars from there," he said. "They said they need a place to stay for a short time so I told them $500 a month to put a tent on the Pleasant View lot in Summerland. They still owe me a couple of thousand, they owe me too much."

    However, Carr and Muskego are not alone. There is a second unit in the shape of a camper on blocks being rented on the property as well.

    The renter declined an interview with Castanet but said she had been living between the camper and a unit in the motel for more than a year.

    Brett Riopel is a friend of Carr and Muskego's and said he is living in a derelict RV at the Pleasant View site as well. He said he was told the bathroom in his RV was to be shared between Carr, Muskego and himself.

    "That's how he said it was legal, because I have a bathroom in my unit and there's a tap for running water."

    John Bubb, director at the Food Bank said there are several people in Summerland forced to live in marginal housing due to a lack of affordable social housing.

    "It's something that crosses our desk everyday. We keep track of accommodation," he said. "There are absolutely not many options for people that are on basic welfare or basic disability benefits."

    On Thursday Carr and Muskego moved into the Shoreline Resort on Lakeshore Drive in Penticton.

    "Oh my god, it's amazing. I haven't slept so good in a long time," Carr said. "That was the best shower. I mean, it's just a hotel, but it's so much better."


  53. Canada Could End Homelessness. And It'll Only Cost You $46 A Year

    by Joshua Ostroff, Huffington Post August 13, 2015

    Nobody grows up with the aspiration to be the poster child for homelessness, but you take what you've been given, right?"

    Katrina Blanchard-Gervais laughs at the absurdity of it all, and she sounds more bright than bitter. After two years in homeless shelters, the mother of six now has an apartment as part of an innovative program in Hamilton, Ont., called Housing First.

    Most of us probably associate homelessness with panhandlers or men sleeping on park benches — they are the ones we see while going about our daily lives. But they do not represent all of Canada's homeless.

    On any given night, there are about 35,000 Canadians on the streets and in shelters, and as many as 50,000 more are "hidden homeless" who stay with friends or family. Over the course of a year, 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness, according to one estimate — 5,000 on the streets, 180,000 in emergency shelters and 50,000 are provisionally accommodated. And 1.6 million more are at risk of losing their homes, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

    In other words, it could happen to almost any of us. Like it happened to Katrina.

    "It wasn't like one day I woke up and I was homeless. Every year things just got tighter and tighter, it was just that one more step down the ladder," she tells The Huffington Post Canada. "Things just didn't work out well for me. How did I end up coming from two wonderful parents in northern Ontario to finding myself homeless?"

    A couple years after Katrina's marriage ended in 2000, the Kirkland Lake local found herself down south in Hamilton. Her older children lived there on their own, and the younger children lived there with their father. She wanted to start her life fresh. She went to school to become a paramedic. She had aspirations. But she also had baggage.

    "I left the unhealthy marriage but didn't really address the issues, didn't take care of the traumas. I carried them with me and I carried them into other relationships. At least one of those times I actually had to go into hiding and leave everything behind. There was abuse."

    Katrina says she got into a court battle with her ex-husband over child support and custody, which wiped her out because her part-time employment meant she was ineligible for legal aid. She ended up owing her husband in backdated child support payments, leaving her thousands of dollars in debt. Her driver's license was suspended because she couldn’t pay child support, and she says she couldn’t get a job without it.

    "That was pretty much the beginning of the end of being able to be housed."

    The end of the end was July 11, 2012.

    Prior to that Katrina had been floating between friends and family members, sleeping on couches, lost in a funk, watching everything slip away.

    "I just didn't have it in me anymore to go and fight for myself," she recalls. She couldn’t stretch the $376 monthly housing allotment she was getting from social assistance enough to rent a place of her own.

    "I was staying with my son in Woodstock, and he said, 'You know mom, you can stay here forever.' But I said 'This is not a solution, I have to go back and I have to go get some help.'"

    So she showed up at the door of a downtown Hamilton women's centre. They found her spot at the Honouring the Circle women's shelter, and she lived there for the next two years — able to survive but unable to thrive.

    Until Housing First came along.

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  54. Housing First is a project based on the belief that the factors that make a person homeless can be better addressed once they have a home. The strategy involves moving people directly into housing with almost no strings attached — they don’t have to be sober or attending a mental health program or have a job. They just need to be in need, and rent is subsidized based on their ability to pay.

    "You do have to meet the terms of your lease like everyone else, but you get to be like everyone else," says Tim Richter, head of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

    The group recently launched its 20,000 Homes campaign, which is based on the Housing First strategy. It was inspired by the 100,000 Homes campaign in the U.S., which ended up finding 105,000 people a place to live.

    The principles of Housing First are not new. It began in New York City in the '90s with Greek-Canadian psychologist Sam Tsemberis. He kept seeing the same patients over and over while doing mental health outreach, and asked them what they needed most. The answer was blindingly obvious — a place to live. So he founded Pathways to Housing based on a theory that would later become known as Housing First.

    "He said, 'Why don't we try getting these people into apartments, regular apartments, provide them the psychiatric medical and mental health support that they need and see if it works?' And it did," explains Richter. "It's taken off from there."

    It's also become a bipartisan success story because you can help people and save money doing it.

    The political right has taken the lead on growing the program. George W. Bush's administration picked it up first, bringing it into the mainstream. The man Bush appointed to head up his efforts to combat homelessness Philip Mangano put Tsemberis’s housing first theory into nationwide practice and the result was that the "chronically homeless" fell 30 per cent between 2005 and 2007.

    The Great Recession hit in 2008, but chronic homelessness fell an additional 21 per cent because Obama picked up the Housing First baton, first with the $1.5 billion stimulus-based Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program and then as the centerpiece of his "Opening Doors" plan. A 2015 update reconfirmed that Housing First "is the solution" and declared chronic homelessness would be eliminated in the U.S. by 2017 and that youth and family homelessness was on track to be ended by 2020.

    Homelessness in Utah has fallen 91 per cent since launching its Housing First program in 2005. State housing director Gordon Walker told the Desert News in April that "the remaining balance is 178 people. We know them by name, who they are and what their needs are." To further assist the no-longer-homeless, Utah recently started a pilot program to expunge minor crimes from their records to facilitate finding employment

    The city of Houston saw similar success, announcing that since 2011 they had reduced their homeless population by 46 per cent and have completely eliminated veteran homelessness.

    Alberta's former Progressive Conservative government was another big supporter of the strategy, and the province has reduced homelessness by 16 per cent since 2008 when they adopted Housing First for their 10 Year Planto end homelessness, a goal that has effectively already been reached in Medicine Hat.

    The small Albertan city launched a Housing First initiative in 2009 and The Tyee recently reported that they have since been able to give 875 homeless people, including 280 children, "secure homes in supportive or subsidized housing." At this point the city has no chronically homeless people living on the streets and are able to move people from emergency shelters to permanent housing within 10 days.

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  55. They're waiting to see if this is sustainable and expect to declare victory by the end of the year.

    "It's really interesting, it has been 'small-C' conservatives taking initiative on many of these," Richter says, calling Medicine Hat "proof of concept."

    The city's mayor, Ted Clugston, said that while it's been a challenge to convince his conservative constituents — "We consider ourselves independent. You work hard...So if you want a place to live, you pull yourself up by the bootstraps," he told The Tyee. — conservative politicians support Housing First because it’s a money-saving initiative in the long run.

    The stability of a home means fewer costly trips to hospitals and interactions with police and the courts as well as taking shelters out of the equation. The Alberta government reported it can cost over $100,000 annually to support a chronically homeless person while "under Housing First, it costs less than $35,000 per year to provide permanent housing and the supports they need to break the cycle of homelessness."

    In other words, there are about $2 in savings for ever $1 spent on Housing First for those with the highest needs.

    The Harper government has also demonstrated support for Housing First since a pioneering five-city study — led by Dr. Tsemberis and focused on homeless Canadians with mental health issues — found that 73 per cent remained in stable housing a year later compared to 32 per cent who received regular services, and all while saving money

    Ottawa subsequently committed $119 million a year until 2019 to a homelessness strategy focused on Housing First principles.

    Still, the NDP has accused the Conservatives of "abandoning their social housing responsibilities" and have pledged better long-term support for Housing First programs. The Green party has also promised to support expanding Housing First outreach as well as social housing funding. The Liberals have made innovative programs for supportive housing part of their platform, along with funding construction of affordable housing, as part of their promise to deliver "a renewed federal role in housing."

    That plank of the Liberal platform is a dig at the government’s current policies. While the 2015 federal budget pledged an annual $1.7 billion for affordable housing over the next four years, a plan remains in place toincrementally decrease funding as operating agreements expire, falling to $81 million by 2031 and to $0 by 2040.

    However, the Liberal party doesn’t have a strong record on funding housing either. It was the Liberals that offloaded responsibility for social housing to the provinces in the mid-’90s to disastrous effect. Fewer than 1,000 social housing units were built in 1995, down from more than 20,000 in 1982.

    "We tend to individualize homelessness, and say that homelessness is created by addiction and mental illness or something to happen to an individual,” says Richter. “But frankly homelessness is a product of the breakdown of the public system.

    "In Canada we can trace the rise of modern mass homelessness to the withdrawal of the federal government from housing investment. They began to back away in the Mulroney years [but] it was really the Chretien government that kicked the knees out."

    He says federal investment in housing has fallen 46 per cent over the past 25 years even as the Canadian population rose 30 per cent, creating "a perfect storm of bad news." Richter estimates 100,000 subsidized housing units didn't get built. Recessions in the 1990s and in 2008, along with cuts to affordable housing, social assistance and other programs, sent many into shelters or onto the streets.

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  56. Demand on homeless shelters spiked in the 1990s, a relatively new phenomenon in Canada. Before the 1980s, homelessness was rare, U ot T professor David Hulchanski wrote in the Toronto Star. Those in dire straits largely had a roof over their heads thanks to rooming houses and charities like the Salvation Army, even if it wasn’t good quality housing.

    But between 1992 and 1998, shelter use in Toronto rose in double-digits across the board, and as much as 123 per cent for families, according to the Mowat Centre. Calgary's homeless increased by 122 per cent between 1994 and 1998.

    The crisis continues today.

    Toronto shelters are currently maxed out with city council promising to add 181 shelter beds and two 24-hour drop-in women’s centres. Homelessness is seemingly surging in Sudbury, where "bush camps" n surround the northern city and the social housing waiting list is 1100-people long. The mayor of Victoria is proposing setting up a tent city in a park. And the nation’s capital is also the homelessness capital with 6,705 people using Ottawa shelters in 2013, the highest in the country.

    In 2007, the UN called homelessness in Canada a "national emergency," and called on the federal government to commit to long-term funding and embark on large-scale construction of social housing. According to Richter, homelessness in Canada could be eliminated at an annual additional cost of $1.7 billion, or about $46 per Canadian.

    Yep, 46 bucks extra.

    Still seem like too much? How about 88 cents per week?

    That's the estimate from Richter’s group, the Canadian Alliance To End Homelessness, in a study they released with other research groups last October. They say that’s what’s needed to implement their six-part plan to eliminate chronic homelessness and prevent future homelessness.

    While Housing First is the crux of the alliance’s plan, it is only a piece of it. The strategy has been criticized in some parts because it can prioritize older men at the expense of women, young people and the hidden homeless.

    By focussing on those most in need — people on the street and in shelters with addiction and mental health issues — critics argue it can ignore people like a single mother staying with friends while distracting from from the need for more affordable housing.

    As for homeless youth, the Canadian Press reported on a study warning against "the 'Housing First Jr.' approach" because "the developmental, social and legal needs of young people that can differ significantly from homeless adults."

    Richter acknowledges that Housing First is just one part of a solution that also depends on social housing.

    "The cheapest was to end homelessness is to prevent it," he says, adding that the State of Homelessness report estimated the total cost of homelessness at $7 billion per year when related costs like health care, criminal justice costs and social services are taken into account.

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  57. While they are calling for a doubling of Housing First funding to end chronic homelessness and help the newly homeless move from emergency shelters to permanent housing in under under two weeks, their $46 plan would also used to reduce the numbers of “precariously housed” (people who spend upwards of half their income on housing, putting them at risk in case of a lost job or health crisis) and increase the availability and affordability of social housing

    The group is calling for bigger subsidies — "even affordable housing is not affordable to homeless people,” Richter says — and wants to make investment in aboriginal housing, both on- and off-reserve, a priority. They're also calling for an affordable housing tax credit, to increase investment in new units, as well as direct housing benefits (like the child-care benefit) to help the more than 800,000 precarious households in Canada.

    In the meantime, the CAEH is working with 21 communities and hundreds of volunteers to help house 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable by July 1, 2018.

    "I'm fully aware that that's not all of the 235,000 that experience homelessness or the 1.5 million Canadians who are at risk of homelessness," Richter says. "But we’ve got to start somewhere."

    hen you're homeless and you have all these crazy things going on you don't know anything. No, it's not that you don't know anything – it's that you're trying to figure out how you're going to eat or where you're going to sleep," says Katrina. "Even myself, I still have not put together a career yet, I'm working on that. But I'm still working on with the rest of my life looks like. And I've been houses for over a year."

    She says she pays most of the $700 rent on her junior one-bedroom herself, supported by subsidies that allow her to live in the "small little apartment in a safe part of Hamilton." Katrina has also become an advocate for Housing First as a way of paying it forward, showing how it has helped her and why it could help others by giving people a safe place to stay and then providing wraparound services to address why they’re homeless, often a combination of poverty, violence, mental health and addiction.

    "I consider myself one of the fortunate ones because I really feel like everything has worked out for me and I've been able to find my voice, my role, my responsibility in this. And go out and talk with people who maybe haven't been that fortunate. Sometimes I get paid to speak, how good is that?

    So yeah, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

    I've met quite a few that aren't."

    to read the numerous links embedded in this article go to:


  58. Perry Bulwer - Just as I suggested in the blog post above.

    Vancouver's new homeless plan: shipping container-sized portable homes

    City issues request for proposal for company to build, install up to 300 moveable 'modular homes'

    By Steve Lus, CBC News February 22, 2016

    The City of Vancouver has issued a request for proposal for a company to build and install shipping container-sized modular housing units to 'temporarily' house the homeless.

    The city's RFP makes it clear the plans are in their early stages and no site for the modular homes has been selected. But the type of unit, and its purpose, is spelled out — 150 sq ft, washroom and sleeping quarters but no kitchens and must be portable.

    They also can't be ugly, according to Vancouver city councillor Kerry Jang.

    "People have the idea that these are Britco trailers or something like that. Let's be clear. They absolutely don't look like that at all," Jang said. "We want to make sure these units fit into the neighbourhoods. That's not only good for the neighbours, but good for the people living there, so they feel like they are part of the community as well."

    This won't be the first time the city has considered homes made out of shipping containers, or something similar. The Atira Women's Resource Society opened a six-unit housing complex made from recycled shipping containers in 2013 on Alexander Street.

    Not permanent

    But the new plan for container homes would be a "temporary" solution said Jang, who envisions a homeless person or couple staying in a modular home for a year or two while waiting for permanent housing. The location of the homes, once selected, also wouldn't be permanent.

    "They could go on private lands that's waiting for development for example, for a few years, or it could go on city land until that land is developed to do permanent housing," Jang said.

    Developers who agree to have modular homes on their site while they wait to break ground could receive property tax breaks or other incentives, and Jang expects some will volunteer their services, regardless.

    "We get a lot of developers who simply say, I really want to help the community," he said.

    The homes must be portable, because as land is developed, the city will look to move the modular units to new sites, Jang said.

    Pilot project

    The first phase of the project will be a pilot of 30 to 40 modular homes. The homes must meet B.C. building code requirements, can be a single storey or stacked two storey, and will be joined to a 1,000-1,500 sq. ft communal area with a kitchenette.

    If the pilot is successful, there could be as many as 300 homes purchased by the city every year, according to the RFP.

    "Getting people inside ... has been very important because it really gets people ready to move into permanent housing when it is ready," Jang said.


  59. Vancouver picks 2 sites for modular mobile homes

    'Shipping container' developments will be built on Howe and Main streets

    CBC News May 12, 2016

    The arrival of modular mobile homes in Vancouver is a step closer after the city proposed two sites where the shipping container-sized units could be developed.

    The city said Thursday that two initial sites had been identified, at 1500 Main Street and 1060 Howe Street.

    At Main St. —currently the site of a community food garden—the city expects 40 to 80 micro-suites to be accommodated. Another approximately 40 suites would be sited at Howe St., on the parkade of the former Bosman's Hotel, which has been operating as a below-market housing rental unit since 2009.

    The units, which are expected to be constructed offsite, then assembled by use of a crane, will be 250 square feet each, with bathrooms and kitchens included. At Howe St., the kitchen facilities will be shared.

    The modular nature of the developments allow for them to be removed and reassembled at different sites as necessary. They will be offered to homeless singles or couples as temporary accommodations while they wait for permanent housing.

    When the plan was announced in February, Vancouver city councillor Kerry Jang said he anticipated tenants would live in the units for up to two years.

    Five companies have been issued RFPs for site specific proposals, with the expectation that the buildings will be ready to take tenants by late fall.

    As part of the RFP, the developers must apply for temporary development permits for each site, prompting a formal neighbourhood notification and input process.

    The idea is not new to Vancouver. The Atira Women's Resource Society opened a six-unit housing complex made from recycled shipping containers in 2013 on Alexander Street.


  60. Atira to build modular housing complex

    21 social housing units for women will be created using old shipping containers

    By Angela Sterritt, CBC News May 18, 2016

    The City of Vancouver has given the green light for Atira to build what will be one of North America's tallest residential modular housing complexes.

    Twenty-one affordable social housing units for women and their families will be built at 420 Hawks Avenue in Strathcona using storage containers to help curb the cost of construction.

    Mayor Gregor Robertson says the modular housing plan is an innovative way to make living in the city more affordable for those who need it most.

    "We know the housing market is very difficult for people on low and fixed incomes and we urgently need creative projects built at low cost," he said in a news release.

    Atira Women's Resource Society, a non-profit organization heading up the project, already has a 12-unit structure on Alexander Street made with storage containers that provides social housing for women.

    The seven-storey building will include seven micro-dwellings and 14 two-bedroom units.The ground floor of the mixed-use complex will feature retail and community space — something the Strathcona Residents Association had lobbied for last year.

    The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation invested $600,000 in the housing. Community groups such as the Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services, Sheway, Watari will also be involved in the project.

    The city says it is too early to say when construction will begin.