Will Modular Housing at Union and Gore be the First Step in Uniting a Fractured Community

Union St at Gore Ave (898 Main St)
If you’re tired of our coverage of these modular housing projects, then your in luck, as there is only enough funding allocated to Vancouver for this last proposal. Unfortunately, all of these buildings combined only provide 600 new homes across our city. Come wintertime, this means dozens will still be on the street, and almost 1500 people in short term facilities will be in danger of the same fate. Despite this critical need, the conduct of some at this event demonstrated there are still those who simply don’t care, even if it would save them money in the long run.

There was no better example than one individual who had recently moved to Vancouver after spending 40 years in Maple Ridge. This person claimed that social housing incentivized and was the primary cause of homelessness, insisting that, until a Salvation Army Shelter opened, there were no homeless people in Maple Ridge.

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They firmly believed that the homeless were the major criminal element in our city, and disputed statistics that show crime rates are dropping (19932017). They were convinced the Vancouver Police Department was being forced to manipulate statistics and under report crime. Ultimately, they believed the way to solve homelessness was to institutionalize anyone below a certain income level. Sadly, all of this was said within earshot of a young couple who were seeking help from a city staffer as they were being renovicted from their home, and had nowhere to go.

This duality seemed to be the theme of the night, as it was found in the messaging, the views expressed, and the attendees. This was best reflected in the effort Vancouver city staff put into making sure this event was inclusive. Not only was there in-depth information about this proposal and the long term plans for this area, but every project board was displayed in two scripts, English and Traditional Chinese. More importantly, there were plenty of translators on hand, clearly identifiable by their large pins, who helped more than a few members of the public.

While there were a fair number of people walking around, there was also two larger groups that appeared to have separate view points. In one group were members of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, which has apparently taken a neutral view on this proposal, despite conflicting reports of a vote against it. They were joined by neighbourhood activists, as well as the ProVancouver mayoral hopeful, David Chen, who has expressed concerns about the cost of these homes and who is profiting from them.

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In the other were representatives of the Hogan’s Alley Society, who indicated the proposal had their personal support, and that of their group. It appeared they viewed this as a first step in the North East False Creek plan, one part of which was designed to help address the historical wrongs committed against Vancouver’s Black Canadian community. They were joined by the community activist group Abundant Housing Vancouver, as well as Independent council candidates Adrian Crook and Graham Cook, who were clearly in support of the proposal. Also in attendance was Green Party council candidate, Pete Fry, who seemed to make his own way through the event.

Ultimately, it was still early stages for this proposal, as staff weren’t even sure whether the entrance for service vehicles will be from Gore or Union. There was some talk of locating these homes on the site of the future St Paul’s Hospital, but the groups involved with that site expressed opposition to the idea. The sad truth is there’s still many city-owned sites that would make great locations for these homes; Worse yet is that they’re badly needed.

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After the event, I went for a short walk through the heart of the Downtown Eastside. and saw first hand the trauma people are forced to endure. Having just heard someone dismiss these people as less than human, it was made even more horrible to see a couple begging their dog to get up off the sidewalk as they came to the realization it was laying there, dying on the street.

It is easy to write off the waves of humanity that line these streets, desperate for food and shelter, as something other than human when one drives by in a car or bus, but it’s impossible when you have to walk through it. While the provincial government has announced long-term funding for more permanent housing, it’s not enough; we have to do something more.

Please write the Hon. Selina Robinson, (provincial) Minister of Municple Affairs and Housing at selina.robinson.MLA@leg.bc.ca, and the Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, (federal) Minister of Families Children and Social Development at Jean-Yves.Duclos@parl.gc.ca, and ask they allocate more funding to the modular home program so that more people won’t have to die like dogs on the street. And make sure to voice your suggestion on how to best implement this proposal into the community by emailing housing
@vancouver.ca .

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