Monday November 1, 2010

Street News

Housing Victoria's Homeless

BC Housing slashes funding to the capital's shelters

Submitted by Janine Bandcroft, Victoria Street Newz


tarting November 1st BC Housing will cut funding to St. John the Divine, a 40 mat Cold/Wet overnight shelter, and funding for the Salvation Army's 20 free chapel mats. These mats were funded in July in response to public outcry around the Pandora Street 'epidemic'.


November 1st Cool Aid will lose their BC Gaming funding for drop-in services which funds 60 hot meals served daily to drop-in clients. November 3rd Streetlink will close down and Rock Bay Landing will open, Cool Aid's new homeless shelter facility, creating a net loss of 12 beds at the new shelter. In the span of 3 days Victoria will lose 72 warm, dry beds and 60 hot meals.

The Streetlink 3:20pm Drop-In meal feeds 60 people every day of the week. Many come daily. Many have housing but can not afford to feed themselves. Many choose to sleep outside. A majority of the 3:20 regulars live on fixed incomes, such as disability or a pension.

Losing the 3:20 meal means putting these people at a higher risk of homelessness, worsened physical health and reduced food security. And losing the Saturday and Sunday meals means losing the only hot meal option in the city on weekends.

St. John the Divine shelters those who have fallen between the cracks. People who have been barred from other shelters, people with dogs, people on their 7 day time away from staying at Streetlink - mandated by BC Housing to qualify as temporary housing - and people who generally don't do well in the more structured and rule-based shelter system.

The Salvation Army mats serve peoples who want to be in a more sober environment than at Streetlink, but who cannot afford to pay the $21/night that a bed at the Salvation Army would cost.

Losing these 60 mats, at the beginning of November, adds another nearly insurmountable barrier to Victoria's homeless.

Some believe that the loss of these mats will be made up for by new E.W.P (Extreme Weather Protocol) mats beginning shortly. E.W.P is called at 11am each day, and those mats are not a certainty each night. E.W.P is activated on the basis of weather: snow, wind and cold temperatures. These warm, dry spaces are not something that the homeless can rely on; being cold and sleeping outside is the only thing they can.

Critics claim that the city has dealt with the Pandora problem (by additional police presence in the area) and therefore these shelters are no longer needed. But these shelters are just one small band-aid for the Homeless community, and removing them will only exacerbate drug use issues, despair and the myriad of problems for those living around the 900 block of Pandora, and those who remain invisibly homeless elsewhere.

There is also the perception that Rock Bay Landing will have more shelter beds. In fact Streetlink currently provides shelter for 96 people each night, while Rock Bay Landing will only have 84 beds, with a net loss of 27 male beds as compared to Streetlink's current occupancy. Also, without the drop-in meal, the 27 more homeless men who will no longer have somewhere to sleep will no longer qualify to eat.

These cuts, in effect by November 3rd, will undoubtedly cause a crisis among Victoria's poor.

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