Daphne Bramham on the weekend wrote in the Province that “the chaos and disorder” in the Downtown Eastside is so “normalized that most Vancouverites have abandoned the neighbourhood, given it up to the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, and the people who prey on them.”
It is a true reflection of what has occurred and it is not equitable. There should be a standard of civility afforded to everyone to have safe, clean, accessible open spaces and streets everywhere in the city and to ensure public safety to every resident. By every measure that parameter has failed and the most vulnerable are impacted.
Ms. Bramham and Derrick Penner in the Vancouver Sun have written about the JJ Bean coffee shop at 14th and Main Street. The manager has had an escalating situation with several mentally ill homeless people in a host of situations, including “an altercation involving a homophobic slur, someone using drugs while barricaded in his café’s washroom, trash strewn in the alley and human waste smeared on the café’s compostables recycling bin.”
The coffee shop manager found that there was no direct way to find assistance with the challenges, and both the police and the city pointed at each other as places that should be able to provide assistance.
There is clearly no civic blueprint to allow businesses to function while municipal attitude is to look away from people in crisis on the street, and finger point that other levels of government should be assisting.
Jeremy Hunka with the Union Gospel Mission feels that the pandemic, homelessness and “the lack of housing and services to deal with addiction” has fanned people in need throughout the city. The Union Gospel Mission and other shelter providers have had to shrink their services and beds because of Covid requirements.
Mr. Hunka also had some very clear points about what is needed to assist the homeless and the mentally ill on the streets: “more respite spaces, places that are dry, have washrooms and where people can sit down without feeling like they’re unwanted or being chased out of somewhere.”
That is exactly what the City needs to immediately do~provide publicly accessible washrooms, places where people can sit that are dry, safe and secure.
All of these are basic amenities of a civil society.
While the issues of homelessness, addiction and mental illness are complex, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges and concentrate on civility in public spaces and streets. It is necessary to ensure all citizens and businesses can safely, comfortably and conveniently access shops, services, and public spaces.
Why can’t municipal resources assist with this now, and if need be bill other levels of government later? Is it time to revisit Vancouver’s Four Pillars model of harm reduction, prevention, treatment, and enforcement?
You can take a look at the Vancouver Sun’s video interview with the JJ Bean coffee shop Main Street manager below.