When community opposition led to the closure of two Vancouver homeless shelters in 2009, lawyers at Pivot Legal Society began thinking of ways to avoid similar scenarios in the future.
The group has now launched a toolkit called “Yes in my Backyard!” or Yimby, which is aimed at countering potential neighbourhood resistance to projects such as shelters, supportive housing, needle exchange programs and mental health facilities.
Pivot campaigns director Darcie Bennett said the initiative is intended to provide information for service providers, and for residents who support facilities like homeless shelters in their community.
“Often times people who are opposed are the first ones to speak out, and people who support the project in principle maybe don’t feel compelled to go out and speak about it,” Bennett told the Straight by phone.
Bennett said the toolkit has pointers for individuals, such as writing to neighbours or to city council, and for service providers, such as meeting with the community “early and often”.
She noted that Pivot was inspired to get the toolkit off the ground when there was dramatic neighbourhood resistance in early 2010 to a homeless shelter in Coquitlam. The proposal was approved by Coquitlam city council after a public hearing.
In 2009, two Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT) shelters closed ahead of schedule due to community opposition.
“Every year we need more shelters, not only in Vancouver but also throughout Metro Vancouver, and there’s not time for lengthy delays,” said Bennett. “So we definitely want this toolkit to be available to people in all communities, if that type of opposition arises.”