Read his first line again "walking downtown can be a scary experience." No sh&t you say. I love how he qualifies it though. I actually agree with what he has to say. I too think it's time for our downtown community to be "everything we want and need it to be for everyone in our beautiful, generous Garden City."
Walking around downtown can be a scary experience -- particularly if you do not have a home and you are wondering where to lay your head and how to heal your broken body.
Fortunately the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce has decided to do something about homelessness and the city's downtrodden, something to improve the lives of our neighbours who are homeless, make the downtown more pleasant for everyone and save taxpayers $9.5 million annually.
As Bruce Carter, chamber CEO, argues in a recent news release, "Our lower levels of government continue to struggle with limited funding to deal with the problem, and in the meantime, the doorsteps of business are becoming the homes for an increasing number of people in need. It is unacceptable to continue the status quo approach because it's getting us nowhere."
The Homeless Needs Survey, which was conducted last spring, found that there were at least 1,242 people in the capital region who were homeless or unstably housed, that is, who could become homeless at any time.
Contrary to the myth that Canada's poor are flocking to Victoria, most of these unlucky people are from our hometown and just can't afford a place to stay or need some help to maintain housing.
According to the survey, three-quarters of people surviving without a home were previously housed in the capital region. A further 16 per cent were from elsewhere in B.C., mostly from Duncan and Vancouver. About 20 per cent of the people at the Streetlink emergency shelter have regular jobs but no homes.
Some people think we are wasting money when we help our most needy neighbours.
In fact the opposite is true. According to B.C. government research, it costs $12,000 more a year to keep someone on the street than to provide them with a modest home and some support. Multiply that by the number of people who are absolutely homeless in the capital region -- at least 791 individuals -- and you get a staggering $9.5 million wasted every year to allow people to be homeless.
Hard to believe? Consider the hidden costs of homelessness. During the Homeless Needs Survey we learned that 33 per cent of those surveyed had used a hospital emergency room in the previous three months and that nine per cent had stayed in a hospital bed in the previous month. In the general population, only 12 per cent access emergency room services each year.
Hospital beds are very expensive, running about $1,000 or more per night. Providing supported housing, a place where one can recover, gain health and better connect with society, costs about the same for an entire month.
When you factor in the costs associated with health care, the justice system, social services and business losses, you don't have to be an economist or a rocket scientist to realize that doing the right thing is also the most economical choice for our community.
Together we are working on only a few, small initiatives to make a difference. Tragically we are not doing enough and the results are plain for everyone to see.
It isn't "new services" encouraging homelessness but the high cost of housing and the challenges of maintaining housing if you are mentally ill, head injured or battling a debilitating disease such as an addiction or disability.
We need more action and less blaming. It's time to move forward to end homelessness in the Capital Regional District and make our community everything we want and need it to be for everyone living in our beautiful, generous Garden City.
Rev. Al Tysick is chairman of the Downtown Service Providers Committee, whose 21 members meet monthly to share ideas and strategize around solutions to Victoria's social issues.
So that means I shouldn't be scared when I walk downtown by aggressive panhandling. I expect you, Rev Al, to support my petition to ban panhandling like we banned smoking, like, almost everywhere. In my petition the only place where panhandlers can ply their trade will be in front of Streetlink and Our Place. (OK that reads a little harsh. I support the good work that the good Reverend does and mean no slight, I'm just feeling a bit miffed that while he dismisses Geoff's statements he offers little in the way of alternative suggestions.)
I also want to highlight the statement by Bruce Carter: "It is unacceptable to continue the status quo approach because it's getting us nowhere." The status quo is getting us nowhere and Rev Al your whole letter is about maintaining the status quo which is "We need more action and less blaming. It's time to move forward to end homelessness in the Capital Regional District..." Are you suggesting we build supported subsidized housing in the second most expensive city in Canada? Because that makes very little sense for EVERYONE involved.
Why not suggest that we create a plan that provides supported, subsidized housing in say, Sayward, or Port Alberni or any number of struggling towns on the Island or in the interior that would welcome both the jobs and building that will help their local economies while providing tax-conscious service delivery for the province (read lower priced housing options for both the people living in the housing and those who will have to work for the relatively low-wages those jobs pay)? It would also remove some addicts and other "ill" people from the major source of their "chronic conditions."
Link to open thread on Victoria Real Estate Happenings (please keep posting your anecdotes).