Tag Archives: homeless

City Council Meetings Sept 5, 2017

Council had two meetings on Tuesday, Sept 5, 2017.

In the Committee Of The Whole there were 3 delegations: Community Futures, The Phoenix Foundation and Grand Forks Search and Rescue. Look for the presentations. If yor\re unsure on what these organix=zations do then these shows

Council also considered new rules pointed at shelters being set up in parks or on public property. Pretty much targeting the homeless the rule says no temporary shelters allowed between 9AM and 7PM. Which sounds okay on first listen but if you give it a moment and think about who this rule is intended for then a few questions crop up like:

  • How would someone without a time keeping device know when it’s 9AM (or 7PM)? They are homeless and not as slaved to the clock as the rest of us.
  • If they miss that 9AM deadline and the city takes their shelter and stuff away then where can they pick it up? Because if that’s not already the case then some lawyer at some point will likely argue that the moment the city agents take possession of somebody’s worldly possessions the city has to hold onto them for a period of time. (and they’ll likely do it pro bono but the city’s our lawyers’ time in court fighting this would be paid by the us, the taxpayers) Has the city worked that part out?
    Hint: It might be more cost effective to just assume the city would be forced to hang onto the stuff and do that from the get go instead of incurring the 4 or 5 figure legal costs of learning it the hard way in court. (and the city would look nearly so heartless as it would if the stuff is trashed) If anybody on staff is reading this then look into that maybe and save us some money, eh?
  • I don’t know if this would be a big deal or not but: How would the city know the person that shows up to claim the stuff is the owner?
  • And if the person in question is a repeat offender then how will they be dealt with? They have no income so fines won’t be paid . . . the exercise will be fruitless. Not cost free though – anyone acting on behalf of the city or processing the file would be paid by us taxpayers.

In the Regular meeting (evening) the big issues of the night were:

  • whether the city would support the Fall Fair financially or not (look for that in the late item)
  • a dispute with a property owner / water customer over payment on the installation of a pit meter.
    This took up the largest part of the meeting with the discussion during the Information Items part of the meeting and later on the question period. Both times Councilor Butler recused herself from the discussion.
    In the agenda this item refers to two people twice and thereafter one of them exclusively. That one was present in the room and hoped to take part in the discussion council was having but the rules governing the regular meeting say a unanimous vote of council is required to allow that. Staff was asked what names appeared on the property title and when the answer came back that the person present was not named on the title they voted against allowing the visitor to speak. So they had to wait until question period.
    The decision did not go in the customer’s favour and neither did the discussion during question period. It got a bit heated.
  • The Permissive Tax Exemptions list of places and organizations applying for and being granted tax exemption. Interestingly the non-profit organizations include financials with their applications so if you’re curious to know how much money they have and how they spend / disburse it then that part of the agenda document would be interesting reading. Use the button above to fetch it from the city’s website.

The Committee Of The Whole

The Regular Meeting


 

Community Futures Phoenix Foundation of the Boundary Communities Grand Forks Search and Rescue Volunteer Appreciation Night 2017 and Policy #204 Update Monthly Highlight Reports from Department Managers Bylaw 1959-A1 Parks Access Bylaw Amendment Bylaw 1606-A6 Zoning Bylaw Amendment Grand Forks and District Fall Fair Minutes RDKB REPORT MIA Appointments of City Voting Delegates Scott Davis and Elizabeth Eastwood - Outstanding Charges Questions From Public and Media

Rally to Support Whispers Of Hope

Friday morning Aug 4, 2017

At 9AM supporters of Whispers Of Hope turned out to rally and add their voices to the conversation around this latest action by the city of Grand Forks. (see documents at the bottom of the page)

Nearly 60 people were gathered around the north steps to hear what was said. Organizers Lorraine Dick and Teresa Taylor were joined by Louise Heck, Board Chair of the Whispers Of Hope Benevolence Association. Then the public were invited to speak. A number did: former board members, community social activists, customers of the thrift store and others. Among them was even retired councilor and Mayor Jake Raven.

CBC Radio interviewed Mayor Konrad Thursday morning (8:04 into the recording) As she mentioned on a CBC Radio interview the next day (7:59 into the recording) Ms. Heck said the board was not caving in to the city’s demand to cease operations and vacate the premises.

Watch and Listen to what was said below.

Download (PDF, 218KB)

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.

 

 

 

The Homeless Could Make Many More Homeless

Regulations restrict the ability those who are supposed to protect the community from doing so.

In the July 17, 2017 City Council Committee Of The Whole meeting a disturbing state of affairs came to light which affects all of us who live and / or own property in Grand Forks.

A short while ago the province instituted a province wide state of emergency due to the heightened wildfire threat. Large areas of BC are burning and over 30,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and towns. Many don’t know if they will have homes to go back to.

Here in Grand Forks we’ve been spared so far but the conditions are prime for a fire to take off and endanger the town. Hence bans on open fires and camp fires.

Even with this risk, and ban, there are a few individuals who are flaunting these rules with relative impunity. These are a small number of the homeless people who have no warm place to spend the night. And even though it’s scorching hot during the day it does get quite cool at night . . . so they start campfires when it gets cold.

One of these people has a small camp on the side of Observation Mountain fairly close to residential properties at the north end of 2nd and 3rd streets. People who live in houses in the area are quite upset because not only does this person repeatedly have camp fires past sundown but apparently nobody has the power to make him stop doing this.

The Fire department can come and put out the fires. They have and continue to do so. They could ticket him but seeing as he has no income or address that would be a futile exercise.

The RCMP will not likely arrest him because it’s a mental health issue – not a crime (yet). In cases involving mental health they do not incarcerate individuals here in BC. If they do apprehend him he won’t go to jail; he’ll be taken to a health facility where he won’t likely be incarcerated. (for more info on how the RCMP deal with homeless and mental health related offenders see the  video in this article)

Provincial regulations regarding flaunting the campfire ban have a penalty that results in a fine, not arrest and incarceration. From the province’s web page on Fire Bans and Restrictions “Serious fines and penalties can result for not adhering to these rules while in the jurisdiction of the BC Wildfire Service.” That presumes that the individuals can pay fines and act rationally and with care. And aren’t likely to flagrantly flaunt the rules.

If his campfire were to get out of control and start the forest on fire, and the fire department was unable to get to it in time, the fire would race up Observation Mountain. On the top of it are communications facilities, antennae and cell phone towers – this would leave us with next to no wireless communications. On the other side is the residential subdivision of Copper Ridge which consists of fairly expensive homes nestled right in the interface. The forest on the town facing side comes right down to residential areas that are right downtown. This hasn’t happened yet because the fire department has been responsive to the threat and the campfire hasn’t gotten out of control. I doubt that the person in question has a fire extinguisher handy. Or can afford one.

So we have a situation where the town could lose significant amounts of property and possibly lives. Potentially millions of dollars in damage. And apparently no one can do anything about it due to regulatory proscription.

Conversations on social media show that people’s frustrations and fears are tending towards anger and the threat of vigilante actions is implied. The irony of this would be that those engaging in this behavior could find themselves incarcerated and unable to do anything while their property burns.

We do have an extreme weather facility to provide shelter for homeless people when the weather becomes too dangerous to sleep outside but those are intended for cold weather in the winter time, not summer. And the opinion of those who have had to deal with these individuals (there are more than just the one on the mountain) is that a number of them wouldn’t take advantage of the service if it was open.

These are people who have mental health problems. Some have complex issues which are exacerbated with drug abuse. Which means they aren’t going to make rational decisions. And will not react normally or predictably to suggestions, instructions or demands that they change their behavior.

If they are too stressed out, or feel too pressured to change how they behave, they might respond negatively. The comments I’ve heard regarding this person’s reactions to comments on this describe him as belligerent. This is how the town lost the two remaining historic hotels a few years ago. The court case about that became a mental health one. It also figured into the fire bombing of city hall by a frustrated homeless man.

So in retrospect the situation we find our town in was predictable. Even so no one, no organization, was able to look far enough ahead and head it off.

So what’s the town to do? What can it do before it’s too late?

I find myself in the uncomfortable position (because I do not want to see people locked up for being different) of asking the question: Is this person not a danger to others? (or by implication of reactionary vigilante reaction to his behaviour a danger to himself as well?)

Popular culture says that when someone is clearly a danger to themselves or others they can be detained for a period of time for cooling down and observation.
Is that even true?

In BC ‘involuntary admission’ only results in a 48 hour stay and only after a doctor has examined the individual and only if they meet certain criteria. (see page 13 of this PDF). This can be extended to 14 days and even a month but I’m not a mental health professional and it’s not clear to me if any of this would result in a person in this situation being removed from the area until the fire risk was over.

It’s clear to me and others that provincial regulations never envisioned this situation. And given the glacial speed at which change happens I wonder how much of our town, and BC, will have to burn down before regulations reflect reality.

You can watch, and listen, to the discussion in the Committee Of The Whole (35 minutes 17 seconds in) below