Monday, September 28, 2009

Crime, Supervised Injection Site, transition housing, etc.

Throughout the past months, the issues related to drug dealing, drug using, supervised (safe) injection sites, shelters, transitional or supervised housing units, a proposed parole office, and the impact on the rest of the community, have been visited a number of times on this blog.

Recall the supervised injection site focus group. Recall the impact of shelters like Shepards of Good Hope or Union Mission on adjacent neighborhoods. The parole office issue. Recall there is another proposal coming forward for supervised transitional housing units on Booth Street, perhaps with a shelter element, we don't know yet.

Dalhousie is still a very safe neighborhood. Its appeal, however, can change quickly when a number of factors come together that conspire to drive out the "middle class" and any neighborhood can go downhill quickly. The climb out is much slower.

Here is an article from City-Journal that deals with all these issues in the ghetto of Los Angeles, a neighborhood with many of the same issues as downtown east side Vancouver. Vancouver has tried the friendly helpful approach welfare advocates for a number of years, and the problems there do not seem to be getting better. In recent weeks, I have been reading in the papers of stronger enforcement efforts - probably related to the Olympics and the dreadful black eye the DTE gives to Vancouver.

Anyhow, here's the original article, it makes a provoking read:


  1. If not on Booth St, where should the supervised transitional housing units be located? I hope this isn't a NIMBY argument...
    I'm not sure if you're suggesting that the middle class is being pushed out of centertown by the urban poor, or the skyrocketing housing costs -- to me, it seems to be the latter.

  2. I very much favour supervised housing units over shelters. The key is both supervision and a progression plan.

    Urbanists can construct lists of features that distinguish a thriving urban neighborhood from a declining one. At some point, the presence of too many insititutional housing units can tip a neighborhood into decline. Thriving, politically savy neighborhoods keep their schools filled, and compliant administrators move in gifted programs etc to take up any vacancies. In other neighborhoods, schools close or special ed programs move in. Are the heritage schools in our neighborhood gorgeously renovated or falling apart? Do businesses thrive with a mix of clientelle on the streets? Of course! Do they thrive when a neighborhood has a significant minority of extremely low income or less-functional people? Where is the tipping point? Within a few blocks of the Booth site there are two women's shelters, a youth half way house, possibly two. I ask these questions because I dont know the answer.

  3. I agree with you Eric. A neighbourhood needs a lot of different elements to thrive, and this includes property owners with enough money in their pocket to be able to look beyond day to day survival. Lose them, and you lose the people most likely to report a drug dealer, to lobby their representative against the plan to run a highway through the place, or even just patronize a local business. All residents - poor and well off alike - benefit from this stabilizing element. Maybe the proposal for transitional housing units won't turn out to be such a big deal, but it's worth keeping in mind that, as you say, every neighbourhood has a tipping point.

  4. I know there are quite a number of supportive housing sites around centertown -- I didn't know there were a number on Booth specifically. If you're concerned that a concentration of supportive housing in a few blocks is ghetto-izing, than I can understand your concern. Without seeing a map, it's really hard to asses. I reject the notion of a tipping point in this context, though -- it's reads as though it's meant to instill fear of others. If it's been shown in research, I'd love to read it. Let's remember, of greatest concern is that our neighbourhood remain the diverse, affordable and accepting community it has always been.

  5. Tipping point is not meant to scare people. Neighborhoods constantly change, becoming more or less attractive. Architects and town planners can create lists of features or conditions that characterise one direction or the other, but there is as yet no " measure" that says there is "too much" of a feature that pushes a neighborhood one way or another. Excessive gentrification is also an issue. I bring up these issues because I dont know the answer.

  6. If you send me your email address, I will send one such list of characteristics of neighborhoods improving vs getting worse (value judgments all).

  7. For sure, I guess it does come down to a value judgment around what we consider to be better, or more attractives in our neighbourhoods. I'm sure we're in complete agreement about the value of walk/bike-ability, artistic presence and so on. Socially, however, I suspect I would take exception to the criteria on which some deem a neighbourhood to be more 'attractive'. Attractive to who? Case in point: Hintonburg over the last number of years -- I don't want to see anyone forced out of my neighbourhood.
    I'll send you my email address is a seperate msg. Thanks. :)