Homeless in Vancouver: Who cares that next week’s HAW schedule is still a mystery?

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      Metro Vancouver region’s 12th annual Homelessness Action Week (HAW) starts in a few days—running from Sunday (October 8) until October 14—but it is still not clear how many HAW events will be taking place this year in the city of Vancouver proper.

      Over four months ago, back on May 25, the city’s general manager of community services recommended that Council approve an allocation of $43,000 in grants to 17 of 29 HAW 2017 event applicants. But as of October 4, the City of Vancouver’s Homelessness Action Week page only shows a list of grant recipients for Vancouver HAW 2016.

      With only four days until the start of Vancouver Homeless Action Week 2017, a link to “see all Homelessness Action Week events” still shows nothing.

      We may still not know which Vancouver HAW 2017 events to expect this year but we probably shouldn’t expect it to end up costing Vancouver taxpayers any less than the estimated $43,000.

      Not only did the May 25 report to Vancouver city council recommend spending $43,000 for HAW 2017, it reminded council that between 2009 and 2016 the city funded the previous eight Homeless Action Weeks to the combined tune of $229,450.

      Vancouver HAW funding grew from $9,300 in 2009 to $36,650 in 2016.

      Meaning that between 2009 and 2016, the City of Vancouver’s Homelessness Action Week funding increased 294.08 percent, while the count of homelessness in the city only increased over that period by about 12.27 percent—from 1,600-something to 1,847.

      HAW funding and HAW timing are different things

      It turns out that even if Vancouver city council approved all 17 of the recommended funding applications for 2017 HAW events, that does not mean that 17 HAW events will be taking place in Vancouver between October 8 and 14.

      For example, the City of Vancouver’s May 25 HAW 2017 grant report recommended that the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society receive $2,600 of $3,000 requested, to hold a convention of tenants of privately owned Downtown Eastside SRO Hotels, in order to educate and empower tenants. No location was shown for the proposed convention.

      As I began to map the 2017 HAW event applicants, I called the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society to find out if the tenant convention was happening and, if so, where.

      The woman I spoke to on the phone explained to me that yes, the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society had received funding to hold the tenant convention, but no location had been chosen yet and that the convention—though funded by Vancouver as past of Homelessness Action Week—was not expected to take place before November.

      I don’t think that I’ll bother making a map. I see no reason why I should care more about documenting HAW 2017 than the City of Vancouver appears to.

      Homelessness Action Week 2017—if history is any guide

      This year, the downtown core will again be the focal point of Vancouver’s Homeless Action Week but likely not to the same degree as the last three years where HAW shrank to the extent that it looked like little more than a Downtown Eastside neighbourhood event.

      Of the total 29 Vancouver HAW 2017 grant requests, fully 14 of them (or 48.26 percent) are for events in the Downtown Eastside. Of the remainder, three have no specified location; one is in South Vancouver; two each are in Collingwood, Mount Pleasant, Strathcona, and the West End. And three events are in the Grandview Woodland neighbourhood.

      However, the May 25 report of the City of Vancouver’s general manager of community services recommends funding just 17 of the 29 applicants—with only six of the 17 (or 35.29 percent) being based in the Downtown Eastside.

      As usual, a great deal of this year’s Vancouver Homelessness Action Week programming won’t make a difference in the life of even one homeless person—two of the events recommended for funding are for art exhibits and one, called “Cardboard Vancity”, is described as a “poverty simulator”.

      But it should be said that fully eight of the 17 events recommended for funding (a little over 47 percent) are for events that can directly benefit homeless people.

      Proposed Vancouver HAW 2017 events which were not recommended for funding, include:

      A long-running DTES “Beauty Nights Project”, an art fair, legal advice clinics, Hives for Humanity’s “Therapeutic Beekeeping and Gardening Mentorship”, an employment fair for people receiving provincial disability benefits, a public lunch lecture on “Housing in the Midst of an Overdose Crisis” and…The Union Gospel Mission’s “Homelessness Action Week 2017 Escape Room”.

      We will all just have to wait for the City of Vancouver to tell us which proposed HAW 2017 events were actually funded, which of those are actually happening next week, and when and where they are happening.

      It would be nice if the city could tell us the Homelessness Action Week scheduling by Friday (October 6) because, well, city staff don’t work on the weekend and Monday is the Thanksgiving holiday and on Tuesday, returning city staff will have to deal with both a backlog of work and turkey.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.