PD Cst. Jodyne Keller hands out blankets to the homeless in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, Nov 16, 2010
Credits: CARMINE MARINELLI/Van.24hrs/QMI AGENCY
Housing Minister Rich Coleman has asked BC Housing to look into three Vancouver public housing units run by Atira Property Management, following media reports that conditions there are no better than brothels or shooting galleries.
Several hotels were converted into public housing for the homeless before the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. According to residents, however, the conditions of the properties has become deplorable — with dirty syringes lying around and doors that won’t lock.
“In the washrooms, there’s needles on the floor when you go in,” said resident Elbert Louie, adding he’s applied to move elsewhere several times without any success. “I have a bad kidney and I have to go really bad, and I go in there with my socks and there’s needles on the floor. There’s a box right there (for used needles) but they won’t even put it inside the box.”
Atira CEO Janice Abbott admitted the housing is in bad shape but said there were many other issues at play, such as the mental health of tenants and addictions. “We go through thousands of light bulbs because tenants steal them to smoke meth.”
While rents at the properties are subsidized by taxpayers questions have arisen whether simply moving the homeless indoors is an ideal use of funds.
Jordan Bateman from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation argued it doesn’t solve the fundamental problems.
“The bottom line in B.C. is homelessness is a symptom of the problem, it’s not the core problem,” he said. “It’s a symptom of a problem with mental illness. It’s a symptom of a problem with drug abuse. We’ve got some crime issues. “Those are the problems we need to tackle. That will then alleviate our homelessness issue.”