When a news story related to the Downtown Eastside catches my gaze it usually falls into one of three categories.
a) Aha! – It’s about time.
b) Yup… – Finally someone is pointing out the obvious.
c) Huh? – The government is actually doing something good.
Surprisingly, all three of these senses have been tickled in the past few days.
The Vancouver Sun ran a front-page story, Feb 14, about the potential redevelopment of Riverview psychiatric hospital to include a potential 2000 mental health units. This comes as an addition to the recent 100 mental health units created at the old Willingdon Youth Detention Centre. It appears that the 15-year experiment of outsourcing mental health care to DTES SRO hotels and drug dealers might be coming to an end.
In case you were thinking the rumors weren’t true, a new RCMP report leaked to the CBC, Feb 15, concludes that more than half of all in-custody deaths in Canada occur in British Columbia. Given the context of the ongoing Frank Paul Inquiry, this is no surprise to people in the DTES.
The BC government announced, Feb 14, their purchase of 6 more SRO hotels in the DTES. While the protection of existing stock won’t house anyone who is currently on the streets, at least the 300 or so people in these buildings won’t be on a curb in the near future. A word of caution about this announcement: it is not new housing – although it may be spun as such. Protecting old stock from market forces is a notable first step, but it is nowhere near the giant leap of 3200 new units outlined in the Inner-City Inclusive Housing Table and the so-called Olympic housing legacy.