Debate during Question Period in the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
T. Stone: Communities across British Columbia are experiencing what the Housing Minister referred to, quite dismissively, yesterday as “a bit of an unsettled time.”
This is what Carolyn and Paul Berry, owners of Spoke Bike and Ski, had to say about the rapidly deteriorating situation on Victoria Street West in Kamloops. “We are subject to break-ins, vandalism, theft and unlawful use of our private property daily. We have had our phone lines cut. We had an attempted break-in through the back of the building. We’ve had a break-in through the roof of our building and fires started in trailers beside our building. Our staff feel threatened. Our customers are being affected as well as the constant cleanup. This is the reality of Victoria Street West.”
These are real issues that are undeserving of being associated with a characterization by the minister as being a “bit of an unsettled time.”
To the Housing Minister, when will she provide the 24-7, on-site, wraparound services that our most vulnerable population needs and that all of these communities are calling out for?
Hon. S. Robinson: I can appreciate the member talking about some of the challenges that they left behind because they didn’t do the kind of supportive housing that is desperately needed. What they’re demonstrating is just how much more work there is to do. There’s still absolutely lots of work to do because you can’t fix 16 years of bad in three years. It’s just impossible. But we’ve certainly made a good start.
I want to point out that yesterday I read into the record a job description, a job posting, for what it takes, the professional expertise it takes, to be a supportive worker that is available 24-7.
Let me read it into the record for the member. I want to make sure that the member understands exactly what other kind of resources are absolutely available for these people who have been neglected for well over a decade by the previous government.
Dr. Anne Nguyen, who works with the Cool Aid community health services outreach team here in Victoria…. This is what she had to say recently on CBC radio around the supports that her team brings to those who are homeless. She says it is a team of 20 some odd doctors who work in about four full-time positions, working with nurses and a social worker, delivering health services in these five motels — the ones that are here in Victoria — and at the Save-On-Foods arena.
This is the other thing she says. She says there has been a fair bit of a stabilization that has occurred in the last few months, so people are accessing health services, including addictions care, mental health care services and some primary care. What she also says is that what she’s hearing is that housing first works and that we need more of it.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Kamloops–South Thompson on a supplemental.
T. Stone: News flash for the minister opposite. This is three years into their mandate. They’re responsible for ensuring that the services are there to help people to get better. They’re responsible for ensuring that there are roofs over people’s heads. They’re responsible for responding to small businesses in communities across this province which are constantly getting broken into. They’re responsible for the fact that people in their own neighbourhoods are terrified to walk out of their doors. This is happening everywhere. Simply moving folks into temporary housing, while not ensuring that the clinicians are actually on site, is not going to help the vulnerable population get any better.
Nina and Mindy of Sisters Sleep Gallery had this to say: “Every night our families at home worry for our safety and well-being.” The question in their minds always is: “Will they make it home safely at the end of the day?”
Clearly, more resources are needed to help people to get better. Yet the minister says: “While there may not be clinicians on site, there is always someone to have a cup of tea with.” Not good enough, to the minister across the way.
The question again is this. When is the minister going to ensure that the 24-7, on-site, wraparound services and supports, which this government talks about so often, are actually in place for the people who need those supports?
Hon. S. Robinson: Let’s be clear about the choice here. These people are already part of our communities. They’re our mothers and our sisters. They’re our fathers and our brothers, and they were, frankly, ignored for a long time. They were neglected.
We’re choosing to care for them. We’re choosing to put them in homes. We’re choosing to make sure that they have the supports that they need. They can live on the streets without supports, or they can live in a home with supports. If it was up to the opposition, they would still be on the streets. Let’s be really clear.
While we’re working to tackle some very big challenges…. No one is saying these aren’t big challenges; they are absolutely big challenges. We’re working with people, and we’re working with communities. The opposition, instead, is driving their resources to drive division. They want to see division, and you know why? They want to see division because they want to score cheap political points rather than working together to make sure that these people are supported and are housed and can be integrated into the community.
Source: BC Hansard