Saturday, May 7, 2011

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.

Vancouverites will be both cursing and delighting in our plentiful rain this May. It is both amazing and devastating. It's like nature is demonstrating the energy which makes this province and in the particular the Lower Mainland so verdant.

At the same time it is devastating for the poor people and I mean poor both in the pecuniary sense of the word and also for being the unfortunate ones. It could be so very different. The homeless of Vancouver could be sleeping in shelters by night and leaving their possessions secure by day.
Rider Cooey talking on Vancouver Coop Radio today said that some 200 people lost a roof over their heads at the end of April.
In Scotland there's a saying "Dinnae cast your cloak until May is oot." How apt for the weather Vancouver is experiencing right now.

The city chose to cut funding and close the shelters resulting in an immediate climb in the number of homeless. Both housing advocates and activists will agree that that number is likely to be less than 200 due to the fact that some have moved into Single Room Occupancy hotels. For others this is not an option due to addiction risks.

You don't have to look very hard to see the folks who could be benefiting from a place at the HEAT shelters were they still open. This is a city with wealth. It can be seen in the downtown bars and expensive cars. Then there's the new housing developments in the DTES. The occupants of Woodwards living a life of luxury cheek by jowl with men and women sleeping in doorways.

At Vancouver Public Library on Georgia - a ten minute walk from the DTES the homeless congregate to escape the rain. One homeless man wears shoes so worn down that only his toes and instep are covered from the elements. His heels hit the ground. His baggy trousers are soaked and his "street feet" *, add another burden to his daily struggle.

In the washrooms in the basement area of the library patrons are warned to not "sponge bath". In addition to the no-loitering signage the homeless can hardly call the library a refuge. It's not meant to be. It's a library, but many are finding this is the only place they can go where they can sleep and see out the day hassle free. After the library closes many stay in the atrium area of the downtown library until they are requested to leave by the security staff. It's a sorry state of affairs.

* Street feet is a condition of blistered and damaged feet which results from a person walking around all day with no means to change their socks and shoes or to care for their feet.

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