Below is a story published in the Nanaimo News Bulletin as well as a letter from me, also published, in response.
Nanaimo's Social Planner, John Horn, is simply trying to cloud the issue by talking about a fulltime shelter for men. We do not need such and are in no way even talking about a full time shelter. His comparrison of Nanaimo with Edmonton is also ludicrous but spin he knows will influence those not aware of what the issue really is. What is really unethical is Mr. Horns attempts at smokescreening the real issue in the community, that of people having a warm bed during the months of November thru March.
Wallce has been great during this process as he is constantly bombarding numerous people with e-mails in an effort to shame them into doing something. His efforts have worked to a degree in that Mr. Horn is moving into territory that may slap himself in the face. In a recent e-mail reply to one of Wallace's he paints a condesending picture of what he thinks Nanaimo's Mayor and Council role will be in these discussions. Will have to wait and see what they think as they were forwarded these conversations.
Anyway I have been working on this with one local councilor and speaking about it to others. I have drafted up a plan with costs and funding source and the plan is to have city staff peruse and then perhaps early in January Wallace and I will appear as a delegation to council. The means to provide Cold/Wet weather funding for a temporary shelter are there and through partnerships we can make this happen.
Advocates push for more shelter
Nanaimo News Bulletin
By Rachel Stern - Nanaimo News BulletinPublished: December 19, 2010 12:00 PM
Social advocates in Nanaimo are pushing for changes to the extreme weather shelter policy, saying it isn’t adequate to protect the community’s most vulnerable citizens.
The 24-bed extreme weather shelter is operated by the First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo on Townsite Road, but the call to open the facility remains with the city.
“I love this community and want to see everyone in this community taken care of,” said advocate Wallace Malay.
Malay and Gord Fuller, a social advocate and chairman of the Nanaimo 7-10 Club, are pushing for the shelter to become a cold weather shelter open October to March from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Malay said the cold weather shelter would be short-term assistance to bridge the gap until the planned 160 units of supportive housing are built.
John Horn, social planner for the city, said turning the extreme weather shelter into a full winter shelter would be unfair to the neighbourhood. “Changing that is unethical,” said Horn. “We won’t support turning the existing extreme weather shelter into a full-time winter shelter.”
However, he said the city recognizes there is a need for more shelter space for men. The Samaritan House, operated by Island Crisis Care Society, for women and children is underutilized, but places that house men are consistently full. Horn says he would like to see advocates who want a cold-weather shelter take the initiative and find a location and with which organizations to partner.
Malay questions whether the criteria for opening the extreme weather shelter is adequate.
“There’s a push for social housing, yet they will allow people to suffer in our community. The criteria is inadequate at best,” said Malay. He’s concerned about inconsistencies in shelter openings and that information isn’t getting out in time to inform people who would use it.
“It’s not only the physical harm, but when you are out there it affects you psychologically and emotionally,” said Malay. “You’re not placing any hope in the community if this is the way you are being treated.”
Conditions for opening the extreme shelter aren’t as stringent this year, with criteria specific to Island extreme weather.
Horn said in places like Edmonton the shelter is open at –10 C, but here it can be opened above freezing if there is heavy rainfall and wind. “That can be just as bad as snow because you get soaked to the skin,” he said.
City requires temporary shelter
Nanaimo News Bulletin
Published: December 22, 2010 2:00 PM Updated: December 22, 2010 2:25 PM
To the Editor,
Re: Advocates push for more shelter, Dec. 18.
Comparing Nanaimo to Edmonton stretches the bounds of imagination and confuses the issue. A far better comparison would be with places like Vancouver and Victoria, both of which have received funding for temporary shelters 24/7 during the cold/wet months of November through March.
Like Nanaimo, both of these cities have comprehensive action plans around homelessness and it is expected that once the new housing, rent subsidies and other components are in place these types of shelters would no longer be needed.
Nanaimo is well on the way in the process with committed funding to build 160 new units of supportive housing. Securing rent subsidies to get people off the street and into existing rental accommodation and purchasing existing properties, which could in fact be used for abstinence based housing, will complete the package.
Nanaimo in no way needs another permanent shelter. What I and other advocates are looking for is not even a full-time winter shelter. We would like to see the existing extreme weather shelter open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the cold/wet weather months of November through March. Rather than being opened at the whim of a few who deem the weather to be extreme, the choice then is that of those living on the street, far more empowering.
Rather than flat out stating, “we won’t support turning the existing extreme weather shelter into a full-time winter shelter,” by the way not what was asked for, are we not morally and ethically responsible to at least explore the possibility of an initiative that can prevent illness and perhaps even death?
Gordon W. Fuller