A new approach to safety and the Downtown Eastside
Councillor Colleen Hardwick: it’s time for a new approach to safety and the Downtown Eastside; Stewart’s and Sim’s fail
Vancouver: Colleen Hardwick, TEAM For A Livable Vancouver mayoralty candidate and city councillor, said today that Mayor Kennedy Stewart has given up on reducing the terrible toll that crime, random stranger attacks and mental health and addictions are taking on Vancouver, while ABC’s Ken Sim would do more of the same – and that it’s time for a new approach to safety and the Downtown Eastside.
“We need to create a Commissioner for the Downtown Eastside to audit the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by all levels of government in an obviously miserably failing effort to improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens,” Hardwick said. “We can’t keep taking the same approach and expecting different results – things keep getting worse and worse.”
“We need to start with a complete examination of which level of government is spending what money on which services – and then start looking at different and better ways to help people in need and improve the disastrous situation faced by far too much of our city,” she said.
Hardwick said TEAM is releasing its election platform section on Safety For All, a detailed plan on how to start solving problems many years in the making.
“Mayor Kennedy Stewart has presided over four years of increased homelessness, failing to get provincial and federal help to reduce the impact of mental illness and addictions, rampant street crime and four stranger attacks a day,” Hardwick said. “These events have made Vancouver an international spectacle and an example of exactly what not to do while creating terrible disruptions to businesses that deserve better.”
“Sadly, Ken Sim and his ABC party would simply do the same things as Stewart,” Hardwick said. “Throw even more money at the problem without any analysis of why it keeps failing – like his pipedream plan to add police officers and nurses when none of either are even available – and when the provincial Health Ministry and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority hire nurses, not the city.”
“And Ken Sim couldn’t even be bothered in the last four years to speak to Vancouver City Council about the most important issues we have debated – yet now he thinks he has the experience to run the city?” Hardwick said. “Ken Sim has neither the skills nor the background - nor has he done the homework needed to govern Vancouver – and City Hall is not the place to learn on the job.”
“The simple fact is, what we have been doing isn’t working, and we need to make substantive and dramatic changes. Stewart and Sim and their councillors are committed to the same old, tired, and failed models that have let the problems of the Downtown Eastside explode and expand elsewhere,” she said.
TEAM Council candidate Grace Quan, a resident of Gastown, said that when Riverview Hospital for those with mental illness was closed decades ago, more community-based support was promised by the Province but not delivered, causing widespread dispersal of those suffering into rooming houses, parks and streets – without needed treatment.
“Everyone can see our system is horribly broken – and we aren’t doing the mentally ill and addicted any favours by leaving them on our streets without support – the question is, what has Kennedy Stewart done to help? The answer is sadly not much and definitely not enough,” Quan said.
TEAM For A Livable Vancouver would appoint a DTES Commissioner to immediately conduct an audit of existing services and public dollars being spent and then make informed recommendations to the City, Provincial and Federal government for rapid changes to begin solving the problems, Hardwick says.
“We need one skilled and experienced Commissioner for the DTES to audit what is currently happening and make strong recommendations for a significant change in approach – anything else will be a waste of time and taxpayers money,” Hardwick said.
“We need to develop a serious, holistic, and integrated plan that addresses the multitude of needs from health, mental health, addiction treatment, housing, job training and placement as well as community integration. This approach will replace the patchwork of programs that have clearly failed over the past 30 years and we can use international programs that have already proven successful. We do not need to reinvent the wheel”
Says Quan: “Things are worse today than ever and they are not getting better. The Downtown Eastside is ground zero. It has turned into an open-air crisis, tent encampments have taken over many blocks of Hastings Street and are spreading onto adjacent streets, and with four random stranger attacks daily, street violence is a constant threat.”
“The approach every level of government has taken for the past 30 years has failed, miserably. The vulnerable are more vulnerable than ever, taxpayers and local businesses are feeling unsafe, and tourists are now telling the world about Vancouver’s dirty little secret: that behind the beautiful postcard images there is a city in pain, and it’s getting worse.”
Quan said recent comments from Kennedy Stewart show that he has given up when it comes to crime, random attacks, the justice system’s catch-and-release approach to frequent offenders, and housing for those with mental health and addictions.
“As a result, we see those same issues starting to take hold in other Vancouver neighbourhoods and other municipalities across Metro Vancouver. Ordinary citizens and taxpayers see it and they want leadership that will make thoughtful and practical changes, leveraging international best practices, because what we’re doing today is not working,” Quan said.
Read TEAM For A Livable Vancouver’s full policy Safety For All.