Course:FRST270/Wiki Projects/City of Vancouver Drug Problems in Public Parks

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Homeless crisis in Vancouver


Description

Vancouver is a coastal city located at southwest corner of British Columbia. The city of Vancouver is a highly urbanized area with a population of 631,486 people according to the 2016 census [1]. It is also the largest municipality within the regional district of Metro Vancouver [2]. The city of Vancouver shares municipal boundaries with City of Burnaby, University Endowment land, City of Richmond, North Vancouver and west Vancouver. The city itself is further partitioned into 22 local planning areas or neighbourhoods [3]. The city can also be subdivided into five electoral districts which has one member of parliament representing each district [4].

In recent years, the city has been faced with an increasing amount of people living on the streets. Vancouver’s lack of affordable housing is a major driving factor towards the increasing amount of homeless people [5]. The disparity between housing prices and the low-income residents has been gradually increasing. This situation is further propelled by the lack of funding support from the provincial and federal government. The province has failed to provide adequate funding towards supporting housing site [6]. Few years ago, federal government also cut back from affordable housing funds [7]. The lack of funding in housing projects in past years gradually had a huge negative impact towards the city. Homeless and unsheltered citizens have risen in Vancouver for the past years. In the recent 2017 homeless count it showed that there was total of 2,138 homeless people in Vancouver [8]. City of Vancouver has the highest total amount of homelessness within the municipalities. According to the findings, about 60% of the aboriginal homeless people in Metro Vancouver lived in the city of Vancouver [9]. Not enough efforts were made to support Vancouver’s most vulnerable community. Homeless people are often drug addicts who use drugs in public areas such as parks and near schools. Timothy, Sally, Jennifer and Jonathan, found that there is a correlation between substance abuse and homelessness [10]. Recently there has been an increase in number of syringes found in public areas. About 250k needles were collected from the streets in Vancouver according to Vancouver Coastal Health [11]. An alarming average of 335 needles were found in parks every month [12]. Andy Livingstone Park and Crosstown Elementary School has become a hotspot for discarded syringes [13]. The vicinity of this area contains parks, soccer field and schools. The syringes pose a health concern for children playing at parks and school areas. The exposure of syringes increases the chances of disease transmission. Residents especially parents are voicing their concerns and demand towards the city to find solution to the drug crisis (Hutchinson, 2016). Therefore, there has been a push for the city to be more proactive and come up with solutions to solve this crisis.

City of Vancouver has been collaborating with Vancouver coastal health and Vancouver Park Board to deal with the drug issue. Vancouver Park Board organized park rangers to frequently survey public facilities in Vancouver [13]. The park rangers are also responsible for removing discarded syringes on the site. Multiple organizations assist Vancouver Park Board by funding the needle pick up programs. Vancouver Coastal Health has needle exchange programs that aim to aid with administering drugs in a safe manner and to also reduce needles found in public area [14]. Medics overseeing the administration can greatly prevent overdose and spread of illnesses. The city of Vancouver is promising to build more temporary modular housing for the low-income citizens and homeless people [15]. The BC government will allocate $66 million for the housing projects [15]. One of the modular house will be constructed on West 59th avenue and Heather street [16]. This modular home will prioritize older homeless people living near the neighborhood [16]. There has been a substantial effort made by the city along with the organizations to solve both homelessness and drug epidemic. However, more progress needs to be made to achieve the desired outcome.

Tenure and Administrative arrangements

The provincial government of British Columbia owns 94% of the land [17]. The provincial government administer regional boundaries within the province [18]. Metro Vancouver is a regional district assigned by the province to provide broad services for municipalities in greater Vancouver [2]. Metro Vancouver is governed by the Board of elected officials appointed by each municipality [2]. The city of Vancouver is one of the municipality in Metro Vancouver. Under the community charter, municipalities are recognized as self governing that follows the legislative framework of the provincial government [18]. Home owners have residential property within the city and is considered private property. However, every homeowner must pay property tax that goes towards public services for city of Vancouver and Metro Vancouver [19].

The provincial government legislate the Vancouver charter which establishes how the city is governed [20]. The provincial government also aids local government through funding depending on the circumstances. The two main local government for City of Vancouver is the city council and Park Board. Both the city council and Park Board is governed by the Vancouver charter [20]. The city council is comprised of the mayor and 10 elected councillors [21]. Unlike other municipalities in British Columbia, the charter gives additional and different powers to the council. They have the authority to pass by-laws that pertain to land use, property and community services [21]. They are responsible for public properties such as streets, roads and side walk [21].Vancouver Park Board is another elected body that has authority over all the parks and community centres within the city [22]. The board consists of seven commissioners that is under 4-year term. Each commissioner is a liaison for different neighbourhood community across the city. They are responsible for constructing policies for services and programs [22]. Residents can vote for member of parliament in five constituencies in Vancouver. The member of parliament voices the concerns and point of view for on behalf of their constituency.

Affected Stakeholders

Homeless people are the most vulnerable community in Vancouver. Homeless people want the city to provide services for them to get their basic needs. Other communities within the city view homeless people as drug addicts, low life and criminals. The homeless community has not been treated kindly within the city. Homeless people often get their human rights violated. The society perceives homeless people as problematic and deem them as a nuisance. City of Vancouver tried to pass by-laws to prevent homeless people from camping out in public areas [23]. The attempt with the by-law violated the basic human rights [23]. The metro Vancouver homeless count report that senior males make up most of the homeless population [8]. It is also noted that the homeless population has risen by 30% since 2014 [8]. However, the large proportion of aboriginal homelessness is concerning. The increase of aboriginal homelessness increased substantially compared to non-aboriginals. Aboriginal homeless people faces different set of challenges. The history of colonialism and marginalization had a great impact on Aboriginal being successful in urban society. Studies have concluded that Aboriginal overall had lower education, higher incarceration and unemployment rate [9]. Aboriginal experiences housing and economic discrimination which significantly increases the chance of being homeless. Homelessness has an influence on all level of governments even though they have relatively little rights.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

The Vancouver city council acts as the main governing body in the city. They have authority over public affairs and facilities in the city. Their main objective is to eradicate homelessness within city of Vancouver. The council’s first step to achieve this goal is by producing more temporary modular housing [24]. The city has multiple partnered organizations to help them with solutions for homelessness. The temporary housing enables homeless people to receive services and allows them to get back into society.

The Vancouver Park Board has full ownership and authority over all the parks and community centers in local scale [22]. The board is an independent entity from the Vancouver council, but they still work close together. The council provides some funding towards the Park Board [25]. Their goals and objectives are split into four distinct categories: Leader in greening, Parks and Recreation for all, engaging communities and Excellence in resource management [26]. They want to provide all inclusive and sustainable services throughout the four main categories.

Vancouver Coastal health provides health, community and mental care services throughout parts of the regional level [27]. The province of British Columbia constructs the framework for standards and goals that VCH must abide by [27]. The board of directors are expected to establish policies based on the framework laid out by the provincial government [27]. The senior executive team then enforces the policies that were constructed by the board of directors [27]. Vancouver coastal health wants to ensure that they provide the best health care services for the designated cities. They provide drug addiction and mental health clinics for the homeless.

Vancouver residential citizens have no power in enacting laws for the city. However, they do have a great influence on local, provincial and federal level. The MLA represents each neighbourhood in Vancouver and voices their concerns to the provincial government [28]. The MP represents each electoral district in Vancouver and voices their concerns to the federal government. The voices of the residents do dictate how should the government govern the city [28].

Discussion

The intention of this community project is to inform the public about homelessness crisis in Vancouver. Residents complain about homeless people leaving discarded syringes on the street. They want the homeless population segregated from the rest of the society. However, the drug crisis is only an extended problem from the main problem. The main problem is lack of support and services provided for the homeless population. The homeless population need our help to get back into society. The park patrols are administering to monitor homeless people and drug activities. This is a temporary solution to a bigger issue. However, I feel like that this method only further segregates the homeless population. This makes homeless people feel like they are not wanted and is always constantly being watched. The effort for establishing more modular housing is a great step towards providing the needed care for homeless people.

Assessment

The distribution of power is very structured in City of Vancouver. The city council acts as the main governing body for Vancouver. They have jurisdiction over planning and decision making within the municipal boundaries. Vancouver Park board is a separate governing body that has authority over parks and community centres in the city. Both entities work closely to provide services in the city. The two-separate governing body is an efficient method to partition the duties. This allows each governing body to focus specific issues and responsibilities. Vancouver Coastal health provides health services to multiple cities. They also partner with the city and park board to manage homelessness and drug crisis.

Recommendations

City councillors should engage more with the homeless people in Vancouver. They should try to be an intermediator between residents and homeless. The residents do not like modular housing being build near their communities due to the negative perception about homeless people. The city councillors need to provide reassurance for the residents so that opposition can be reduced. Park Board should find different method monitoring drugs in the city. Park rangers resemble police in homeless people point of view. The park board should try find an approach that doesn’t further segregate homeless population. Vancouver coastal health should make clinics more noticeable and accessible to homeless people. The Vancouver coastal health overall has strong programs and services that help homeless people. The residents should be more understanding of the homeless crisis. They should do more research and be educated about the situation. If residents would have less perceived conations against homeless people if they are more well informed.

References

[1] Government of Canada, "Census profile, 2016 census," 3 Nov 2017. [Online]. Available: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CSD&Geo2=PR&Code2=01&Data=Count&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&TABID=1&B1=All&Code1=5915022&SearchText=vancouver.

[2] Metro Vancouver, "Members of municipality," 2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.metrovancouver.org/about/municipalities/Pages/default.aspx.

[3] City of Vancouver, "how we plan liveable and sustainable neighbourhoods," 2 May 2017. [Online]. Available: http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/neighbourhood-planning-projects.aspx.

[4] Election BC, "Resources," 2017. [Online]. Available: http://elections.bc.ca/resources/maps/.

[5] B. Pauly and P. Gurstein, "The link between Vancouver’s homelessness and soaring housing prices," 11 oct 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/the-link-between-vancouvers-homelessness-and-soaring-housing-prices/article32304886/.

[6] L. Johnson, "Shocking homeless count needs provincial help, says mayor," 11 April 2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/homeless-count-vancouver-response-1.4066499.

[7] M. Shapcott, "Federal budget cuts another $131 million in housing spending on top of big cuts last year," 30 March 2012. [Online]. Available: http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/housing/federal-budget-cuts-another-131-million-in-housing-spending-on-top-of-big-cuts-last-year/.

[8] Metro Vancouver, "Metro Vancouver Homelessness Partnering Strategy Community Entity," 2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/homelessness/resources/Pages/default.aspx.

[9] Metro Vancouver, "Aboriginal homelessness [PDF]," 2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/homelessness/HomelessnessPublications/2017AboriginalHomelessnessCount.pdf.

[10] T. Johnson, S. Freels, J. Parsons and J. Vangeest, "Substance abuse and homelessness: social selection or social adaptation?," april 1997. [Online]. Available: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1360-0443.1997.tb03375.x/full.

[11] "250K used needles found on the ground in Vancouver last year," 26 april 2016. [Online]. Available: http://bc.ctvnews.ca/250k-used-needles-found-on-the-ground-in-vancouver-last-year-1.2875196.

[12] S. Little and E. Lazatin, "Cbc news," 18 sept 2017. [Online]. Available: https://globalnews.ca/news/3754289/vancouver-park-rangers-dirty-needles/.

[13] City of Vancouver, "City of Vancouver and Park Board increase needle pickup efforts in Andy Livingstone Park," 20 june 2017. [Online]. Available: http://vancouver.ca/news-calendar/city-of-vancouver-and-park-board-increase-needle-pickup-efforts-in-andy-livingstone-park.aspx.

[14] City of Vancouver, "Safe injection site and needle exchange," 12 Aug 2012. [Online]. Available: http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/safe-injection-site-and-needle-exchange.aspx.

[15] J. S. Denis, "Vancouver promises 600 more modular apartments for homeless by winter," 26 July 2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2017/07/26/600-more-modular-apartments-for-homeless-by-winter-vancouer.html.

[16] City of Vancouver, "Temporary modular housing," 2017. [Online]. Available: http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/temporary-modular-housing.aspx.

[17] British Columbia, "Accessing and using our natural resources," 2017. [Online]. Available: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/natural-resource-use.

[18] British Columbia, "Land use-local government," 2017. [Online]. Available: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/natural-resource-use/land-use/local-government.

[19] City of Vancouver, "Residential property tax rate," 2017. [Online]. Available: http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/residential.aspx.

[20] City of Vancouver, "Vancouver charter," 2017. [Online]. Available: http://vancouver.ca/your-government/the-vancouver-charter.aspx.

[21] City of Vancouver, "Vancouver city council," 2017. [Online]. Available: http://vancouver.ca/your-government/vancouver-city-council.aspx.

[22] City of Vancouver, "Vancouver park board and reacreation," 2017. [Online]. Available: http://vancouver.ca/your-government/vancouver-board-of-parks-and-recreation.aspx.

[23] K. Hollett, "BC Supreme Court rules homeless have right to public spaces," 21 Oct 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.pivotlegal.org/bc_supreme_court_rules_homeless_have_right_to_public_space.

[24] City of Vancouver, "Homelessness & sro update," 11 April 2017. [Online]. Available: http://council.vancouver.ca/20170411/documents/rr1presentation.pdf.

[25] J. McElroy, "Vancouver councillors want more funding for park patrols," 19 Sept 2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/park-ranger-funding-vancouver-affleck-1.4297681.

[26] Vancouver park board, "Park board strategic framework," 27 June 2012. [Online]. Available: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/park-board-strategic-plan-presentation-20120627.pdf.

[27] Vancouver coastal health, "Leadership," 2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/leadership.

[28] Inclusion BC, "Meeting your mla or mp," 2012. [Online]. Available: http://www.inclusionbc.org/take-action/meeting-your-mla.