OK, I admit maybe the pressure by police and the Downtown BIA helped keep them open too. But hey, we can take some credit. We did some serious organizing with shelter residents at Central Street during the time we thought it was closing.
The city owned shelter houses 100 people a night and is one of seven HEAT (Homeless Emergency Action Team) set up for the Olympics that were slated to close by the end of April.
“It’s just wrong,” said resident Fraser Stuart when he heard the shelter was closing. “The cost of decent housing is ridiculous. This is my home – it’s not the best home, but it’s home. We’ll try to stay here – otherwise we’re going to the parks.”
Resident Cory put it in perspective: “If I didn’t have this place I’d be in jail. If it’s cold and rainy outside, sometimes I think I’ll do something illegal just to get inside for the night. I can’t find work. As soon as they find out I’m homeless, they don’t want to hire me.”
Residents at the Central Street shelter vowed to start a tent city. Pivot offered their red tents at a press conference. One hundred shelter residents created and signed a petition. Citywide Housing Coalition helped the residents hand deliver it to city hall, Housing Minister Rich Coleman and Andrew Saxton, the only member of the ruling Conservative party elected nearby – in North Van. CCAP put out an email bulletin asking 2000 people on our list to call the Mayor, the Housing Minister and the MP in North Van.
All this pressure must have helped because the day before Central was scheduled to close, we got word from the Housing Minister that funding was secured for 3 of the biggest shelters including Central, First United and Stanley New Fountain (about 350 mats). Unfortunately, four other shelters run by Raincity are in the middle of closing in other parts of the city (160 mats). Sigh.
But another positive outcome is a few residents from Central Street have been
introduced to the CCAP group and are coming to our meetings regularly. They are a great link to the other shelter
dwellers, full of energy and inspiration and ready to do more action to end homelessness.