The City Of Grand Forks announced today (Aug 2, 2017) that it was issuing a “. . . notice of lease termination to Whispers of Hope Benevolence Society and Boundary Emergency and Transitional Housing Society”
They want “the soup kitchen, emergency shelter and thrift store to cease operations by Friday August 4th, 2017 at 5pm and to vacate the building within thirty days“.
The bulk of the press release refers to problems such as vandalism, dozens of complaints from the public, worries about personal safety, safety of the community at risk due to campfires during this time of high fire risk, drug paraphernalia like needles laying around, public nuisance issues and expenses incurred in dealing with the problems and the temporary shelters set up by the homeless.
It makes reference to the Committee Of The Whole meeting of July 17 which you can see on this site.
The last words are “Council agreed to start a task force to investigate solutions to improve homelessness and mental health. The City is open to any course of action that will keep public spaces safe and available for everyone to use.”
Okay, let’s examine this:
Is this the task force in action?
If that is the case then I have to ask: Just how does this improve things for the homeless and those with mental health issues?
I get that people are upset. I understand that people are afraid. But I wonder how does making the homeless more stressed out by removing their support system benefit the rest of us (let alone help them)?
A few years ago (2013) one of the homeless people tried to burn down city hall because, as I understand it, he was upset about things that city hall had no hand in or ability to fix. But city hall was the most visible and accessible organ of government to him so that’s what he went after. It wasn’t a rational decision but as far as I know this is a person with mental health issues so rational choices aren’t to be expected.
This person is still here and still homeless. And this action is directly attributable to City Hall.
So I have to ask: Has city council thought this through and taken stock of the vulnerability of the site and possible jeopardy they’ve put it in?
When a property burns down you usually see a security guard on site 24 hours a day for sometimes a month or more. Guarding a burnt out hulk that usually has nothing of value to steal. That costs money but the insurance companies foot the bill. Is the city posting any security at city hall now or are they going to wait until after it burns down?
Back in the early 1990s the City of Vancouver tried to stamp our the prostitution plaguing a certain part of the city. The actual result was a bit like trying to squash mercury – it spread out all over the place. Instead of going away from the area known for it other areas of the city began to see scantily clad women ‘hitchhiking’ at all times of day.
By removing support system that some of the homeless use I’m guessing that the city hopes they will go away and take up residence in some other city. IF the homeless make rational decisions and IF they weren’t from here to begin with then maybe that plan will work. Many people think that the homeless we have here have come from elsewhere because either they heard we were a soft touch or other towns have shipped them here. But according to the local RCMP many of them are people who are from here: they grew up here and they’ve ‘come home’ to their home town. Don’t believe me? Just listen to what the RCMP had to say about it when they talked to the Downtown Business Association earlier this year.
So if the city’s action doesn’t make them leave then what’s to become of the homeless? Is the City going to feed them? Are we going to see aggressive panhandling by desperate, hungry, mentally ill homeless people? I guess that’s one way of pushing them into another part of the system, the penal system, and getting them out of your hair.
I don’t claim to have answers to the problems of the homeless or those who have to live near them. But I wonder if the ‘task force’ will have to dig the city back out of a social justice hole it may have dug for itself before it can get around to making any headway.
The small potential issues I’ve described about are likely just the tip of the iceberg of social problems that the city has launched into our community. They need feedback from you, the public, to help them realize meaningful change and reject knee jerk reactionary responses. (though you may sense from this post my knee is jerking up a storm). At the bottom of the Press Release on the city website is contact information – use it please.