Demands and Consequences

Interesting, but not surprising, to read in my local newspaper that my home city of Victoria, BC, Canada, is not alone as it wrestles with the problem of people who are homeless – and want to remain that way until their demands are met.

Demands? Yes, I think that’s the right word when interpreting the statements attributed to one Ivan Drury who was in attendance Thursday (Feb.25) for “a celebration” at self-proclaimed “tent city” on what was once the lawn of Victoria court house. Any semblance of a lawn disappeared in winter rains weeks ago as ramshackle shacks and tents from modern to reclaimed sheets of tattered canvas covered every square foot of a once demure, peaceful patch of green.

On one side across the street stands Christchurch Cathedral solid and solemn in its affirmation that those who provide shelter, clothing, food and drink for the needy are following original, admirable doctrine advocated by Jesus Christ: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me.”

On another side stand the Law Courts where the rule of law, the most important foundation stone in any society claiming to be governed by the ideals of democracy, is upheld. The courts have decreed that where a government fails to provide adequate “shelter” for its citizens the “homeless” can pitch a tent or build a shelter on public land until more adequate accommodation becomes available.

While church and the law sit in their respective, comfortable, cloisters collectively washing their hands of the core issue while voicing religious or legal opinions, Victoria’s “tent city” festers in the muck.

Ivan Drury sees it as a place “created by poverty” where “brave leaders in the fight against poverty and homelessness….” have come together “to show the way out of this crisis.”

He adds that the only way out, the only solution, is permanent affordable housing for low income people. An admiral objective strongly supported by church and law – neither being burdened with the awkward business of finding the money to achieve what is obviously a desired aim.

Donna Ambers, indentified in the newspaper story as “the camp grandmother” told all who would listen: “This is our struggle and we’re winning. We are not leaving. We want land. We don’t want temporary nothing. We don’t want shelters. We don’t want anything like that and we want to be able to stay as a community not dispersed around the city.”

I don’t expect Ms.Amber or anyone else in “tent city” to believe me, but there was a time when I, and thousands like me, wanted what she wants today. Eventually we got what we wanted, not as gift from government dispensing money collected from better established taxpayers, but during a long and sometimes painful journey when money was always scarce and our roofs not always weatherproof.

We had morale help from friends, learned to live without vacations, search for second-hand clothes, didn’t dine out and confined our drinking to plain tea or coffee. In 1948 I paid $1,500 for my first bit of land in Saanich – every penny “saved” from my $37 a week pay for a “first home” shack that would have been right at home in “tent city.”

What about the demand that government (the people we give billions of dollars a year to spend on our behalf) launch massive housing projects with low mortgage or low rental availability? No problem – other than where to place it on the taxpayer demand list and what to build. New towns in what is now wilderness? Condo towers to boost down-town populations? And cost?

We can afford it? Indeed we can – but we can’t afford everything we need. Something – other than taxpayers already weighted down with costs for health care, education, police and fire protection, potable water, public transportations, domestic water supply, recreational facilities, street lighting, exorbitant hydro rates and of course parks, presumably for the beneficial use of all citizens – has to give.

All suggestions welcomed.







  1. Well Jim you got it right again to bad nobody listens and don’t have the courage to say it like it is. I think the problem id, that there are to many people making a good wage claiming to help the down trodden. You wrote something awhile back, how they handle the mentally challenged in the UK.

  2. This is a problem that is fraught with many more when we look for solutions. Some of these campers are free spirits who do not want to be tied down with a house and land. Many refuse to even go to shelters because they’d have to abide by various constraints, regardless of what Donna Ambers says.

    We likely could afford to build modest accommodation for the homeless but then how do we establish entitlement? If I were to sell my house and give the proceeds to my children could I qualify? What would aboriginal people whose houses are often substandard say?

    I know I sound like Scrooge and his prisons and workhouses but this is a hard one to solve.

  3. Your blog today could not have been more appropriate in providing a view I need to determine what and which charities I should continue to support in 2016. My average for the last four years has been about 50+. I believe too, that the problem of homelessness is a good place to start, and for that reason I am a supporter of Pacifica Housing, but not without asking questions. My guideline belief (not an original) is that the only real help we can give people is when we HELP PEOPLE TO HELP THEMSELVES. My life employment was in agricultural extension with the Ministry of Agriculture. And so, The low income people who are placed in those PH premises are required to pay “affordable rent.” But if their only income is that provided by the taxpayer, what have we gained? I do not envy the people on the lawns, But my biased opinion is that many are takers, not givers. I am 88+- was born in BC educated here through to University , and graduate study in the U.S. I remember unemployed men in the thirties calling at our farm door- asking if there was any work they could do in exchange for food. Mom was always kind. I have forgotten many things, but not that. So that is my wisdom for today. Cheers, thanks, and keep your powder dry Al Pelter

    aturday, February 27, 2016 1:32 PM To: Subject: [New post] Demands and Consequences

    theoldislander posted: “Interesting, but not surprising, to read in my local newspaper that my home city of Victoria, BC, Canada, is not alone as it wrestles with the problem of people who are homeless – and want to remain that way until their demands are met. Demands? Yes, I t”

  4. Hi there Jim…. from another Jim (this one Bennett) As you may know (but probably don’t care if you know or not!) I was at Victoria Real Estate Board last 10 years prior to my own retirement a year ago. With the strong support of their Board of Directors I spent about 50% of my time on housing issues in the various communities and on an advisory board at the CRD. Anyhow….here’s the view I came to about housing homeless…. (1) 60%+ of the issue is not a municipal issue…. The folks are suffering from health issues – be it mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, brain injuries. This has been determined by surveys. So my advice to some local leaders has been…. quit doing the province’s work…. get together and demand that Island Health provide solutions for the health-challenged folks and then go out and support their budget requests

    (2) Almost every housing unit built since OUR PLACE and including OUR PLACE has been built at cost of over $250,000 per door. The units for both CoolAid and Pacifica Housing are included in this realization. At the request of the now-retired Henry Kamphof at CRD Housing Secretariat, I joined a now-retired employee at VIHA in 2009 and we negotiated what is now a 10 year lease with Norman Isherwood for 34 units at 923 Burdett for the princely sum of roughly $420 per month per room…. and that was in the City of Victoria! So my view on that is that the community, the province and its agencies need to negotiate more for housing space for homeless that include the groups I mentioned above and NOT build everything new.

    (3) and finally….. I bark at the wind…. The community and province are trying to provide all this needed housing for needy in the most expensive area of Vancouver Island! Why are we not working harder to encourage the truly needy to live in smaller communities where land is cheaper?

    Thanks for your article.

    Haven’t seen GRACE for a couple of years now. I must get over to the big smoke and see her while she still has the memories that will lead us to laughter.

    Best wishes to you. Did you get a chance to see the movie “SPOTLIGHT”? It’s a “journalist’s” movie….. a real story about the Boston Globe work on some of the (wayward) priests in the Boston area who were part of the Catholic Church. If you didn’t see it on the big screen…. get someone to help you find a DVD of it! As you would know…. It won the OSCAR for best picture.

  5. Excellent comment, Jim Bennett. Thank you for the reminder that sixty plus members of the Street Community are folks suffering from health issues…mental illness, substance abuse struggles, alcoholism, brain or physical injuries. The majority of homeless people are not free spirits…they are broken spirits. Number 3 suggestion should be strongly encouraged.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s