I had a few restive nights recently, waking in the wee small hours to listen to the sound of hard rain on the roof, shivering at the thought that somewhere, a very short distance away – a mile or more at most, there was a lost dog walker and her charges, soaked, chilled and huddled against the deluge.
We rejoiced when she was found, as did the entire lower mainland. It was a feel good story all round, complete with a trio of irascible dogs, but I still find myself awake listening to the rain in the night. You see, unfortunately, she was not alone. Tonight, every night, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of souls sleeping rough, equally as sodden, cold and bedraggled as our dog walker heroine, but just not nearly as appealing. I refer of course to the homeless, occupying increasingly visible urban eyesores throughout the lower mainland.
No one should be forced to endure a Vancouver Winter out-of-doors – not the homeless, not the mentally challenged, not the drug addicted – no one should be left to shiver and possibly to die in misery.
I am told that close to $400 million a year is poured into the downtown East-side, the most visible face of the homeless problem, by well over 200 government agencies and private organizations. Apparently all that $400 million buys these days is a squalid encampment on the sidewalk and a few hundred rooms in dilapidated cockroach ridden hotels.
Something isn’t adding up here! – enough is enough, already!
Let’s start thinking outside the box a bit. We simply don’t have years to plan and build housing for the homeless, so, where can we quickly find some decent, secure, and economical accommodation?
Consider that there are, at this very moment a number of mobile work camps for sale, scattered across the North at various locations where they housed construction crews, oil exploration crews and so forth. $2 million will buy you a complete camp in used, but serviceable condition,with simple accommodation for 400 to 500 people.
If Surrey is serious about cleaning up its growing homeless encampment, they could do so within weeks-buy a used camp, hitch it up and tow it to Surrey and set it up in a parking lot. A long-term solution? Of course not, but a much more humane short-term solution then allowing the camp along 135A Street to fester.
For a solution that could probably house every homeless person in the lower mainland consider the purchase of a used cruise ship. that’s right, a cruise ship!. $50 million will buy you a cruise ship in turnkey condition with available accommodation for 2000 guests, not even counting the crews quarters.
I know it goes against the grain to consider housing the homeless in apparent luxury, providing them the sort of accommodation that the rest of us save our pennies to be able to enjoy for a mere seven or eight days on an annual cruise- but consider – this is ready made accommodation- it doesn’t have to be designed, built, or re-zoned, just re-located, and we instantly have secure and dignified accommodation for those who need it the most.
A cruise ship is a secure environment, making it much easier to interdict weapons or other contraband, Medical facilities are already in place, and there would be room to house the agencies that focus on assisting the homeless.
Then too, a cruise ship berthed in the harbor has far less impact on the rest of the community that does garbage filled makeshift encampment.
It seems to me, the key to the ‘housing the homeless’ problem isn’t lack of money, since we are already pissing away a over a million dollars a day to achieve nothing- it is a lack of imagination! – so, if my suggestions are off the wall- lets hear yours !