Coun. Kerry Jang troubled by False Creek North residents' push to close homeless shelters

Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang has said that calls by some False Creek North residents for the shutdown of two homeless shelters in their neighbourhood are irresponsible.

“They don’t care as long as it’s not there, and that’s not responsible,” Jang told the Straight by phone from his office.

The shelters on Granville Street and Howe Street opened last December, as part of an initiative by Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Homeless Emergency Action Team.

Neighbourhood residents have expressed concern about the location of the shelters and have claimed that they draw dangerous people to the area.

A group of residents, Concerned Citizens of False Creek North, has distributed messages and petitions in favour of shutting them down immediately.

Jang said he has yet to hear a suggestion from the group on how to provide housing to those who would be displaced by closing the shelters. He asserted that an immediate shutdown is not a feasible solution.

“Quite frankly, the [homeless] population has lived down there for a long time, maybe more spread out, but they still lived out there, and they will be back there...They’ve always lived there...we have the data to show it,” Jang said.

The city has sent a letter to concerned residents, outlining steps it is taking to deal with their concerns. These include an increased police presence in the area.

Jang claimed his attempts to meet with representatives of Concerned Citizens of False Creek North to address the issue have not been successful.

“Many times, I’ve been in the alley and they’re calling me [to complain], and I say, ”˜Well I’m down here right now, come on down,’ and they won’t,” he said.

Jang also said he’s concerned that some opponents of the shelters have been purposefully provoking homeless people in the area. There has been talk of neighbourhood vigilantism—a notion that the councillor finds “troublesome”.

“The people living in the shelter are becoming very anxious, and they’re starting to act out more,” Jang said.

Without further funding from the provincial government, the shelters are set to close on June 30. If the funding does come through, Jang promised that the city will consult with residents worried about the management of the shelters.

Ideally, Jang said he would like to see the province offer interim housing to people staying at the shelter.

“The way I look at it, the shelters are there for survival,” Jang said. “That’s their goal. Interim housing is there for stability, and permanent housing will provide recovery. If we were to close the shelters today, we’ve lost everything.”

Comments

12 Comments

sleepswithangels

Jun 24, 2009 at 6:35pm

The most distressing and disgusting thing about this story is the fact that the BC Liberals can find billions of dollars to pay cost over runs for their favourite white elephant projects but can't find pocket change to help the homeless. Even more distressing is the fact that this callous example being set by Gordon Campbell tends to encourage greedy and thoughtless yuppies to act like the selfish pricks they really are.

Kudos to Kerry Jang for working with some of the most downtrodden and at risk people in our society. He's been doing this work for years before entering political life. As a tenured prof at UBC he didn't need the aggravation of politics or dealing with people in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances, so there is no denying the fact that Vancouver is very lucky to have him working to mitigate the dreadful and inexcusable gaps in the social safety net.
SMBs

yvr citizen

Jun 25, 2009 at 8:02am

How do you create a fullproof safety net that will adequately support the downtrodden? Actually, where does money come from?

Howe resident

Jun 25, 2009 at 12:15pm

Kerry Jang is so FULL of BS it makes me sick! This is not a homeless problem this is a DRUG and VIOLENCE problem that has been dropped into a once save upstanding neighborhood.

Terry K

Jun 25, 2009 at 12:39pm

The residents in the shelters are becoming anxious! So when you (KJ)arrived at the meeting organized by the residents of this neighborhood to voice our concerns you didn't think that we were "anxious". We have an audio file of the entire meeting where buisness owners and residents talked about our concerns and ask questions of you and your cronies for almost 2 hours. It is obvious from your ludicrous comments that you heard nothing!

Talk about responsible, did you consult or even consider our safety when you dumped this problem in our neighborhood? Is it responsible when you took ,as your own documents say, the hardest to house, the repeat offenders, all that are not allowed in ANY OTHER SHELTER in the lower mainland and placed them in a neighborhood with no services with no police presence or any other fascilities the city claims their "clients" require.
As a long-term (15-plus years) resident who has been a construction worker most of my life, and am lucky enough to be able to live here, I find it completely appalling and ignorant that an "elected" official would make such arrogant statements as if he lived here 24/7!
The homeless population you so quickly remind everyone about that were always here never defecated or urinated in our flower beds or on our front steps, never left syringes and condoms everywhere, or flailed around our sidewalks and seawall in a drug-induced state. These (the original resident homeless) who were the few who probably would have benefited, if they chose to, from a properly run shelter. Not a NO Barrier shelter with open doors all night, with NO RULES, with no access to any social services anywhere nearby.

Kerry Jang stop insulting our intelligence with your arrogance and "politically correct statements, and for once tell the public what over 300 (and growing) tax paying, voting residents of this neighborhood told you at our meeting!

15 9Rating: +6

Rev. Anna S. Christie

Jun 25, 2009 at 1:49pm

Simply because people of have moved into this neighbourhood does not make it theirs, no matter how nice their house is. The homeless belong there as well - they've lived there a long time or they wouldn't be there now. If the real issue is safety then safety can be addressed by further police presence. But to close down shelters and relegate the homeless to just "not in my back yard" is heartless and cruel. A society is judged by the way it treats its weakest, most vulnerable members - not by the way it treats the affluent middle class.

Perhaps going and meeting the homeless, talking to them, building relationships, asking their opinion of political or housing issues...these are the things that make for a safer neighbourhood as well. You are all children of God living together in one city. No one has more intrinsic value than another simply because they have money and a roof over their head.

Bonnie D

Jun 25, 2009 at 9:00pm

"They don't care as long as it's not there" Back at you, Jang! Do you care about the safety of the citizens of this community? Nevermind, I know the answer to that...it's NO!

So the police were here again tonight to arrest a man who threatened to jab a citizen with a used needle.

There are so many inaccuracies your story, it could take me all night to correct you.

Way to write a one-sided story, Shadi Elien.

Jane M.

Jun 26, 2009 at 1:57pm

I think it's a real shame that the Concerned Citizens of False Creek North, who have such wealth and privilege, seem to have zero compassion for the other members of their community. Homeless people are still people. Maybe instead of pointing fingers and seeing only the problem, those individuals in the neighbourhood who have roofs over their heads and food in their bellies could use this opportunity to build community and to improve the lives of everyone, not just themselves.

By casting homeless people as "the other", "the problem", or reducing them to stereotypes, you are merely reinforcing the systemic problems that create homelessness in the first place. Want to fix the problem? Put aside your selfishness and your sense of entitlement and work with everyone in your community.

MaisieP

Jun 26, 2009 at 11:36pm

But as Kerry Jang himself said there have always been homeless people in the False Creek area and the residents have never complained. People rub along, rich and poor side by side. However, when an irresponsible council introduces disproportionate numbers of homeless people into an area with absolutely no consultation with local residents, what do they really expect people to do? The shelters have introduced very real problems that didn't previously exist - discarded needles, drug dealing, threatening behaviour, etc, etc. It is not fair to point fingers at the citizens of False Creek North and call them wealthy and selfish. They are just normal working people who have chosen to work hard and live in nice condos, nothing particularly abhorrent about that. How on earth are they supposed to know how to build relations with their new shelter neighbours? Now had the council bothered to consult with the local residents, to discuss their plans and explain the purpose of the shelter things might have been different. Had they bothered to try and get any democractic buy in from residents rather than just riding roughshod over local public opinion - again it might have been different. The only ffinger pointing here should be at the incompetence and mismanagement of the situation from start to finish by the mayor and council.

Caley

Jun 28, 2009 at 12:55am

I think one important issue that everyone seems to be forgetting is that these shelters are no longer the responsibility of the city, in fact as of March the fate of these shelters rests in the hands of Gordon Campbell and our Provincial government. Perhaps instead of everyone ganging up on city council members who are doing their part in ensuring that some of the most vulnerable members of our society have at the very least somewhere to sleep at night.

It's terribly concerning and disheartening to read just how a few residents can set so much fear upon an entire neighbourhood, when it comes to fear mongering these "concerned citizens" have the act down perfectly. I say this as someone who currently lives in this neighbourhood and has yet to see the outrageous claims that some people are making. I have had more productive conversations with the homeless around the area then many of my so-called neighbours. Reducing people down to a stereotype, shoving them from one corner of the city to another, and constantly reminding them how unwelcome they are in our neighbourhood is deplorable behaviour, and as a society we should aim to be better, to do better.

I for one hope that everyone out there makes their voice heard to the provincial government and demands that these shelters are kept open. We hear each day how the world will be watching us in 2010, lets make sure we can ALL be proud of what they see.

audreylaferrriere@yahoo.ca

Jul 1, 2009 at 8:00pm

I tried to get the video of the June 11th meeting. Quess what. No reply. I do not know who is behind this hysteria but he should stand up and admit it with a list of the signatures and address of those who oppose.
audreylaferriere@yahoo.ca