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Time to treat a crisis like a crisis

Jody Vance: BC is faced with a more urgent crisis than COVID-19, but hasn’t seen anywhere near the same level of concerted, coordinated action. That has to change, right now.

“It won’t hurt you if you don’t move” no longer applies to the politics of poverty and homelessness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the urgency of the suffering in our neighbourhoods. Not only of those living with less than nothing, but also those who find their streets and parks taken over by desperate citizens with literally nowhere else to go.

It’s already a nightmare, and it’s getting worse. We are nearing a tipping point.

Today’s middle has no definitive answers, just a plea for someone in a position of political power to do SOMETHING.

With a report this week that Illicit drug deaths in BC are higher than homicides, car crashes, suicide, COVID-19 combined, the time for excuses has passed.

We should start with casting aside things that don’t help. One is blame. It doesn’t matter which level of government has failed in their past duties.

Another is labels. Lost, sick, helpless, downtrodden, impoverished, addict — labels don’t help or bring solutions. These are all people. Desperate people. Someone’s children.

There is no “one clear solution.” But we need to get past THAT narrative and fear of making the wrong first step. What we need is not ribbon cuttings, or photo ops with distressed homeowners – but someone fearless enough to lead and start somewhere.

How about the MASH unit that is the Vancouver Convention Centre? Could it be staffed with mental health and addiction specialists and put Strathcona Park and the Yaletown Howard Johnson residents there?

Maybe not the right first step but at least it’s an idea.

Start. Somewhere.

People don’t need a bike-obsessed Park Board to try to dance around their fate, society requires brave leaders to lead, and save lives.

That’s the middle here – pushing over the first domino. (Even if it doesn’t work!)

Because even that is better than the Nothing being done now. Ask the people on the frontlines. They will tell you we’re failing – and that it’s about to get worse, when the sun sets at 4:30 and (on the coast) it rains for days on end.

Did you know that much of the self-medication happening in the homeless community is rooted in constant wet feet? Think about that. Wet and cold feet for months.

That’s one part of this crisis. And while it’s more deadly, it can’t be separated from the other.

Neighbourhoods are being taken over by a level of crime never before seen. Kids can’t play in their yards, never mind the local park. This also has to be addressed. It’s not unreasonable or insensitive to expect protection and safety, cleanliness and security, as minimal returns on paying taxes.

So with people literally dying in record numbers AND public spaces increasingly becoming unsafe, patience is a luxury we can no longer afford. So to leaders who are “putting together a study or reference a city plan that should be ready “by the end of the year” — bye.

Remember when Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robinson promised to end homelessness by 2010? Guys, it’s 2020.

We are decades into this failure. It’s torture for thousands of citizens who deserve better. Those without homes AND those whose homes are targeted in the desperation of poverty.

Do I have the answers? No. Do I think that all levels of government are failing at this? Yes.

Let’s demand action.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.


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