City Pulls Rug Out From Under Homeless Support System

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.




6 thoughts on “City Pulls Rug Out From Under Homeless Support System

  1. Tanis Carson

    I have email the city but I have another question. Is the city going to pay 2 weeks severance pay to those that were actual paid staff at Whispers?

  2. Brian Fletcher

    We need to know which councillors voted in favour of closing down this much needed facility so that we the taxpayers can in turn vote them out of office.

  3. Alex

    I agree. Not sure how closing down Whispers is going to change anything for the better. It will make it worse. No where to live and no where to find food? Is the city considering opening a prison for poor and homeless people? It seems wherever we have a visible population of people living in poverty and homelessness then the folks who are more fortunate throw up their hands and start pointing fingers and claim there is nothing they can do. The poor are a burdened with discriminate actions of community leaders and continually pushed aside. Solutions should be of people working together with common sense empathetic reactions instead of condemnation and brutality.

  4. Andre Conn

    As the man that burned city hall, I find it interesting that you think the city had no power not to enforce a zoning bylaw which it had created by not threatening my landlord into evicting a person with a disability from the first and only housing he had had in this community in over a year and to do so right before winter.

    That you defame me as mentally ill for believing that those in government should actively protect the human rights of Canadians as the law requires, tells me that you are part of the problem too.

    1. gftvboss Post author

      I will admit that I did not closely follow your case when it came up after the fire at city hall so my understanding of it is based on my recollection of what was reported at the time.
      And I was left with the impression you had mental health issues which mitigated sentencing – if that was not the case then I apologize for saying that about you.
      Your use of a lot negatives (no/not/not) makes your statement a bit confusing to follow so please bear with me as I attempt to decipher your words.
      If I interpret this correctly you are saying:
      1) you have a disability
      2) after being homeless here for over a year you had a place to live, a rental accommodation.
      3) your landlord evicted you just before winter
      4) your landlord did this because the city threatened them (?)
      5) the threat was to enforce a zoning bylaw
      Is that what you are saying?
      Or was it:
      4) the city did nothing to prevent the eviction (though you think they had the power and duty to do so)
      If that is so then I wonder which federal or provincial statute/law it is that you think would compel the city to take action to avert the eviction.

      Moving on to your next statement where you claim I defamed you.
      The only reason I mentioned mental health as a factor is because that is what I was given to understand as I stated in the article.
      I did not state any particular reason let alone this belief you hold that you imply that I somehow am privy to.
      So if I am not aware of your belief then how can you say that is my reason for thinking you’re ‘mentally ill’?
      The action which you admit you took, trying to burn down city hall, in reaction to something done to you by another party, was an irrational choice.
      In other words not an action that someone in a rational state of mind would take. By implication the result of someone with a mental health issue.
      Can you see the logic in that?

      I would have thought it was fairly clear from my post that I’m not on the city’s side in this action against Whispers of Hope. That I think it’s wrong and misguided.

      But in spite of that, now you’ve decided I’m ‘part of the problem too’.
      I’m not exactly sure how to take that Andre. Given your past behaviour in dealing with ‘problems’ that is . . .


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