By Lisa Cordasco, CBC News, 10 November 2006
Victoria city council has invited anti-poverty activists to work on its new housing strategy committee, which will try to come up with solutions for the estimated 2,000 homeless in the capital.
The proposal was made at a public hearing Thursday night, after councillors prepared to hear from dozens of people who have been lobbying council for less talk and more action.
But after hearing from just one speaker, Coun. Sonya Chandler announced plans to create a housing strategy committee, and invited the ad hoc citizens group to join it.
“I think that there’s some pretty immediate stuff that can happen, that can satisfy everybody,” she told the crowd.
Ben Isitt, a spokesman for the citizens’ group, welcomed the offer, but has doubts as to whether all members of city council are ready to take action.
“It remains to be seen whether a majority is prepared to purchase or lease a building, open it up, open secondary suites across the city, to really pressure the province and the feds to do something.”
The group has asked the city to create 50 more emergency shelter beds and to seize abandoned buildings downtown and convert them into affordable housing units.
“People are cold and wet and they’re going to die,” said another member of the group, Irene Pollack, who is also worried that the city is going too slowly.
In Vancouver, meanwhile, city councillors are putting forward different proposals to deal with the city’s homeless crisis.
The governing civic party, the Non-Partisan Association, has proposed the construction of dorm-style housing, with 100-square-foot rooms with shared facilities.
The opposition Vision Vancouver party has suggested that the old city jail be renovated to provide 200 beds for the homeless.
Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan recently released his housing strategy, a plan that relied heavily on additional money from the senior levels of government.