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.”