With the situation getting worse in the Downtown Eastside, incoming-B.C. premier David Eby says the province will take over running a coordinated approach to address issues in the Downtown Eastside.
In an interview with Global News, Eby said the problems in the community are the worst he has seen, and managing it has become too big for the City of Vancouver.
“I have not seen it look worse. And I have not seen a worse situation for people than I have right now. I think we need to bottom line what is happening. It is far beyond what the city can handle on its own,” Eby said.
Eby explained a “bottom line” approach means the province will take on the role of coordinating the services and measuring the outcomes.
This includes working with both the federal government and the City of Vancouver. It also means coordinating service delivery from the Vancouver Police Department, the court system and a wide way of social service providers.
The first step will be to put in place an immediate encampment plan to address the ongoing concerns with tents on East Hastings Street.
“I don’t support encampments,” Eby said.
“I don’t think they are a solution to homelessness. I don’t think they are safe for people who live in them. I have seen too many fires, too many people have died in them.”
Eby will be sworn in as premier on Friday Nov. 18.
Service delivery in the Downtown Eastside has once again been put under the microscope after a controversial report commissioned by the Vancouver Police Department outlined costs associated with the city’s social safety net.
The report was done in conjunction with HelpSeeker, an Alberta based group, and estimates more than $5 billion a year is directed to the city’s social services.
There have been questions about the $5-billion figure considering HelpSeeker included around $2 billion of direct federal transfers that go to all residents of Vancouver. This includes child tax benefits, Old Age Security, Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan.
Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer does agree someone needs to help coordinate the support provided in the community.
“Someone, probably the provincial government, needs to step in here and coordinate all these silos,” Palmer said.
Eby is also outlining a medium- and long-term plan around coordinating the specific resources. This includes tracking outcomes in the Downtown Eastside including where money is being spent.
“For those passing through the neighbourhood, for visitors, the obvious metric will be can we will see things are getting healthier is the big indicator for is.” Eby said.