Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Three downtown streets identified as hot spots

with 7 comments

Downtown Ambassadors

Photo by Mordechai Dangerfield on flickr


The three streets in the city’s downtown business improvement area were identified recently as crime hot spots in city assessments to determine the need for expansion of the Downtown Ambassadors Program.

Vancouver city hall is recommending that council adopt a one-year $237,000 contract with the Downtown Business Improvement Association to extend the program.

The three streets are Granville, Georgia and Robson. They are “hot spots” because of people identified as “druggies, panhandlers and rough sleepers”. In fact the same people fit all three “categories”. And the Ambassadors do nothing more than move them along to another street somewhere else. They do nothing to solve the problem.

This is the same approach that failed with street prostitution.

And it is promoted by the same mindset that sees the needle exchange and the safe injection site as causes of more “problems”. And is not going to work this time any more than it has worked in the past.

Of course the customers of downtown businesses do not like seeing reminders of how useless our social policies are. The failures are societal, not just of the individuals who find they can only cope with adversity though self medication.

The problem has been growing steadily. The Tyee recently showed how inadequate even an apparently simple count of those affected was recently. And the response has been – from all levels of government – totally inadequate. But shows no sign of change. $237,000 might provide a few beds for a few nights. Or some dry socks. But the City and the BIA would rather chivvy people than help them.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 15, 2008 at 7:00 am

Posted in criminality, poverty

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7 Responses

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  1. And somehow these unfortunate people are stuck in with the word “crime”?

    I expected the hot spots to be more like Hastings, Carrall and the north tip of Main St. Something in the DTES where there are more of “them,” but then that’s still calling them “criminals” which is about as useful as our ways of addressing obesity. Personally, when I think of crime, I think of thugs and drunk middle- and upper-class people wielding knives, guns, and broken beer bottles, and maybe the occasional petty thief, not the harmless homeless. Yeah I see them at the corner of Georgia & Granville on a regular basis, and my first memorable experience was on west Robson (if not Gastown), but they’re better off there than other places. I’ve stood on the corner outside Carnegie Hall at night and felt more at ease than around the skids and drug dealers at Surrey Central at night.

    Here’s a new slogan for you: HIGHWAYS OR HOMELESS?

    Erika Rathje

    April 15, 2008 at 6:19 pm

  2. We have not actually made homelessness a crime yet (Atlanta did for its Olympics)

    When I think of crime I think of “road rage” first, right now.

    Perhaps if the “druggies, panhandlers and rough sleepers” had some place safe to go to, then this approach might make some sense. Most of the street people regard the present shelters as more dangerous than the streets!

    Stephen Rees

    April 15, 2008 at 6:33 pm

  3. I actually disagree that these should be hot spots. This shows a definite interest in making “business streets” more “business-like”. If the city really cared to solve the “druggies, panhandlers and rough sleepers” problems, they would have done it ages ago. Right now what they want is to increase business traffic to those “hot spots”.


    April 16, 2008 at 6:54 am

  4. I think it is the same phenomenon that the crime rate climbs the more police you have. The Ambassadors obviously spend most of their time on these streets, and probably stay well away from the lanes and alleys.

    I also know of some extraordinary places where people who sleep rough conceal themselves – and I will never reveal them

    Stephen Rees

    April 16, 2008 at 9:12 am

  5. IMHO, the problem is not so much the Downtown Ambassadors themselves, but that the NPA wants to use tax dollars to pay for more of them.


    April 16, 2008 at 11:35 am

  6. Homes for the homeless and an infusion of addiction, health care and other social services seems to be the obvious answer. The only question in my mind is how come senior governments haven’t provided them yet?


    April 16, 2008 at 12:05 pm

  7. Also, simple math does not result in a net increase in social or affordable housing by buying up an existing stock of single room hotels. New housing is desperately needed.


    April 16, 2008 at 12:07 pm

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