The following was posted on Facebook (here) as an open letter to Mayor Robertson and City Council.
On the night of October 25, 2017 there was some chatter about the Mayor doing some press conference the next morning about placing modular housing for the homeless across the street from Laurier Elementary. I was first in disbelief. Then flooded with frustration and emotion on the magnitude of wrongs with this not just proposed but already decided upon unconsulted plan of action. I, like many others of the community, was unable to attend this press conference due to the complete disregard to inform residents.
Before I go on, I want to say that I could not have agreed more with Mayor Robertson’s platform back in 2008 about eliminating homelessness in the city of Vancouver. It is a basic human right to have a roof over your head. However, not only has the Mayor failed to deliver on his promise to eliminate homelessness by 2015, the homeless population in Vancouver has risen during his leadership. I can only imagine Vision’s frustration with the inability to follow through with their promises and Vision desperately scrambling to find any means to tackle this issue before the ever so close municipal election next year.
I believe that every citizen and every community in this city could do more to help. Modular housing is a great idea to support and provide temporary shelter to help the struggling who perhaps may have had an unfortunate setback in life to reconnect and have a reset to move forward in life. Communities can benefit from them and vice versa. Perhaps the stigma that comes with the idea of homelessness becomes more of a positive discussion and acceptance as opposed to a negative generalization.
Having said that, the idea that this modular housing be placed directly across Laurier Elementary, Ideal School and adjacent to Churchill Secondary is irresponsible, incomprehensible, ridiculous, and simply unacceptable. It is naive for anyone to say that confrontation between the residents of the modular homes and children will not occur. From your views, the probability of an incident occurring where a child may get hurt in some way or manner is nil. But what if something does happen? Now as a parent, imagine if it was your child that got into an incident or accident by whatever means all because of the direct contact with a resident of the modular housing project? How devastating would this be to you and your family? All the potential for that child can be taken away quickly and can be irreversible.
I am not opposed to housing the homeless. I am not opposed to having modular homes in my own community of Marpole. I am opposed to the leaders of our city placing modular housing for the homeless directly across three schools consisting of over 2300 children without any consultation with the community involved. Perhaps the city could propose a bylaw (that does not pass behind closed doors in secrecy and actually be discussed with all stakeholders) that requires these modular homes be built a certain distance away from schools (500 meters? 1 km? 10 blocks?). This is not an unreasonable or unrealistic suggestion or request. There are similar requirements for things like Marijuana dispensaries are they not?
My family attended the info session night at Langara on November 2nd and heard that the reasoning behind putting the modular housing on Heather Street is the temporary “free land” provided by Onni. The same company that the city “mistakenly” waived $1.5 million dollars in taxes back in 2016 for the development of a project in downtown Vancouver. If the city has funding problems securing land for modular housing, why does it have funds to purchase the land along the Arbutus corridor previously owned by CP Rail just to please the west side population? Where does the money come from to purchase residential lots to convert it to park space by John Henry Park? This is perplexing. Opportunistic real estate is not an acceptable enough justification to build modular housing directly across from one schools, let alone three schools. This is reckless and irresponsible.
What we don’t understand as a community is there is no alternate site in Marpole that could have been identified as suitable space for this project? Was the land across three schools the only viable option? This question was asked at your Langara session but was not directly answered. Many questions were left unanswered and simply diverted away from the real issues and our concerns.
As a resident of this city, I will admit that I can do better. As the leaders of this city, you can do better. Be more transparent. Be more reasonable. Listen to your voters. Have a conversation about this with your partners and close friends. Ask them how they would feel if you put this project next to their child’s school.
Again, all I am suggesting is that you find another location some acceptable distance away from vulnerable children and schools, the most important pieces of our future.
It is not too late to actually consult, listen and acknowledge the voices of the residents of Marpole and any other future communities this may happen to.