This week I went to a discussion on homelessness facilitated by the Downtown Residents Association. The new police chief Jamie Graham spoke, as did Jill Clements and Charlayne Thorton-Joe from the homelessness coalition, and Ken Kelly from the DVBA. A summary of the talk can be found on Robert Randall‘s website.
Update: Read more on this topic from Yule Heibel‘s blog.
The two representing the coalition – Jill and Charlayne – identified the most systemic breakdowns in support for homeless people. It’s pretty clear that the support system is broken and needs fixing at a high level before it can be effective at a ground level. Another well-documented point that was made last night is that Victoria tends to attract homeless people from all over the province and country due to our climate. This said, it is a relatively small municipality that is paying for a provincial and national issue. The numbers are nowhere close to working, even if the system wasn’t broken down. Anyway, I wont get too deep into the issues as I’m not an expert, but my feeling is that the important cards are not entirely in our hands, yet.
The new Police Chief was really well-spoken. I felt he communicated the challenges that the police face fairly well and in a way that felt appropriately transparent. He was handing out personal business cards and engaging in quite a bit of two-way discussion which is refreshing to see. Clearly the police have their work cut out for them in this city. A city with homeless from across greater Victoria, across the province, and across the nation. And a city where police are divided into various municipality forces. There is multiplication of issues and division of resources. It is a losing combination and Victoria has been losing.
The DVBA representative spoke for a while about the business owners in the area and what they have at stake. I didn’t get much of a point from him beyond that. He spent the remainder talking about parking passes. This is puzzling in two regards – he is talking to people who live downtown, and homeless people generally aren’t looking for a place to park cars so that they can go shopping. I felt that this particular part of the evening did not contribute anything significant to the discussion.
Overall the talk was interesting and the dialogue needed to happen. It was also nice to see the new police chief speak at length about his views and philosophy on policing and the homeless situation in downtown Victoria. I don’t know how to find out what progress the coalition is making, but I’d be interested in keeping up with their findings, recommendations and any actions that local resources are undertaking to change the way the various silos of support work.