Politics, Community & Society > Vancouver Homelessness: Is there a Solution?

Vancouver Homelessness: Is there a Solution?

Published: March 9, 2009

As I made my way from downtown to Simon Fraser University, I was able to see the full extent of the Downtown Eastside and its misery. The slum of the city is mostly visible through the windows of buses and cars making their daily commute, giving the passengers a distant and saddened feeling of the neighbourhood. As time goes by, passers-by get desensitized to the aged, boarded-up buildings, the homeless lurking around, and the overall gloom. Many, me included, live their lives with a false hope that things will get better for the people affected due to homelessness and drug addiction.

The word homelessness is correlated with the Downtown Eastside in the minds of most people in Metro Vancouver. The streets appear unkept, the buildings broken and dirty or abandoned and there's a lack of businesses. It is perhaps no wonder then that this area attracts all kinds of problems such as drug trafficking and addiction, prostitution, disease, and crime. Lack of education, inadequate housing and unemployment are also problems troubling the Downtown Eastside.

Money is the all-star player in problem-solving in society, but it must be organized and directed in order to take effect. Some people and organizations may be made of money, but the money won't leave the pocket unless it attracts more money.

In looking to solve the homeless probem the first baby steps have already been taken. The government of British Columbia opened six education centres (such as The Gathering Place Education Centre) around the lower mainland for people to go back to school and upgrade or complete their high school diploma. The availability of free courses will allow people to become more literate and educated in order to be more qualified for their future endeavours. Government may also set up bursaries and scholarships targeted at homeless people in order to provide incentives for post-secondary education.

Another government initiative that could potentially take place is the development of affordable housing for people with low incomes as well as the homeless. Vancouver is an expensive city to live in; many people have been affected by the rising house prices. Relocating to a different city is expensive and it is no wonder people may get stuck in the state of homeless if they cannot afford to pay rent or buy a house. Furthermore, government funded rehabilitation centres are an important resource considering the fact many homeless people are now in the situation they are in because of their addiction to drugs.

Private investors can also help. The rundown buildings and dirty streets in the downtown eastside make the area live up to its reputation. Like many people, I don't particularly enjoy walking along a street which feels like it's deserted and has lost its soul. Companies and investors may want to think about buying some of these buildings and repairing them or even demolishing in order to build new buildings. This will lighten up the streets, create jobs, and give the investors their money's worth in return when the buildings are leased or bought.

Work related training could be provided by many different organizations. Private or public organizations may want to sponsor such training in order to draw attention; luring people to your company may be as easy as giving them the necessary training free of charge.

Now money is usually tight, especially when it comes to government spending; we aren't going to see much done if there isn't some way to gain money. The 2010 Olympics will definitely help improve the lower mainland's economy since it will increase tourism and the facilities will have a life-time of profit. If legalized, Marijuana will solve plenty of problems. It would create a new taxable industry which would be strictly regulated (just like cigarettes). Not only would this bring in further revenue for the government, it would also have dramtic effects on crime levels.

Money may be the all-star, but it takes a team to win a game. A problem that persists is the organization of these steps. The biggest and most difficult part of the problem is getting people motivated enough to change their lives around. It is not easy for people to make drastic changes in their lives, especially when they've hit rock bottom.


1. bay on March 9, 2009

Hey Mike,

I really like your blog entry - it presents some interesting ideas. One I've always thought a lot about is the legalisation of drugs. It's true what you say about providing a taxable industry. You have to wonder (especially in Vancouver!) how much money goes into this black market.

I was recently in Australia for three weeks and didn't see one homeless person in that entire time - makes y ou wonder what's going on in Vancouver!

2. Richard on March 18, 2009

Wow I was just thinking about what you said a few days ago when I was driving to West Hasting via East Hastings. From Main and Hastings onwards, it just looks like the gov't is just letting the place rot. Kinda sad.

3. max on April 13, 2009

i think if they killed every single homeless person in the lower mainland that would reduce the problem of homelessness. Yay for death to the unsheltered.

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