12 January 2017

Community Centres As Warming Centres

Tonight at a "Special Meeting" of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation we will discuss just one topic: Using Community Centres as warming centres. This special meeting was called by three of my fellow Commissioners. This a right under the Vancouver Charter. However I have no idea as to why they would call this extraordinary meeting, when this could be discussed at our next scheduled meeting.

For the past several weeks Vancouver has experienced very unusual weather. While we usually have a climate of warm summers and cool winters, our weather pattern this year has changed significantly bringing us very cold temperatures with snow and freezing rain. For most of us this has been an inconvenience. For those without shelter this has been devastating. People without shelter can become frostbitten and even die in these conditions.

As a stop-gap measure our senior management team partnered with the City of Vancouver to find warming centres for people without homes to find a little warmth and shelter. A few of our Community Centres were included in these warming centres. For the most part these have been very successful and have worked smoothly. An unfortunate incident at one centre resulted in a child finding a used needle in a washroom. This is, of course, unacceptable, and should not have happened. However, this could have happened at any centre, at any time of the day. Our washrooms are not policed and cannot be kept spotless all day long. They are all cleaned regularly. Luckily there was no harm caused by this incident.

I am proud that my City tries to help the most vulnerable and I am very proud to be part of a Park Board that believes every resident should be cared for.

Tonight I will speak to this issue. I will talk about the social contract: the voluntary agreement among individuals by which organized society is brought into being and invested with the right to secure mutual protection and welfare.

It is the social contract that dictates that, although I do not have school age children, I pay school tax as this is the best way to ensure an educated and thoughtful citizenry. It is why I am happy for BC to participate in federal transfer payments to areas of the country whose economy isn't as robust as ours here. Why I am glad my taxes go to programs like welfare to help those less fortunate than I am. Why I am happy to pay into CPP and OAP so our seniors don't live their last years in poverty. And why I am glad that my parks and Community Centres are open to all, including the most vulnerable.

Am I my brother's keeper? I certainly am. And my sister's too.

I believe warming centres are important for the safety and welfare of the most vulnerable of our society. I am very proud that the Park Board has been a partner in this initiative. I will continue to work for this important partnership.

*****Update: 13 January 2017*****

A motion brought forward last night by NPA Commissioners Sarah Kirby-Yung, John Coupar, and Casey Crawford to close current Community Centre warming centres and not open any more was defeated. I was one of 3 Commissioners, along with Michael Weibe and Erin Shum, to oppose the motion. In fact, I tried to amend the motion so it would formally approve the centres and give the General Manager the formal authority to open them as he saw the need. 

This amendment was defeated on a 3-3 vote, as indeed the original motion to close the centres was. Had our 7th Commissioner, Catherine Evans, been available (she was out of town when this 'special' meeting was called) I have no doubt that my amendment would have carried and this issue would have been laid to rest once and for all. As it stands the GM continues to have informal authority to open warming centres--as he did the very next night when he authorized the re-opening of the West End CC.

No comments:

Post a Comment