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Pushcart Bob has left modular housing (temporarily, I hope)

The last thing I expected to see in a Fairview back alley yesterday (June 11) was my formerly homeless friend Pushcart Bob, living out of a shopping cart again. but there he was.

Pushcart was supposed to be happily living in the Reiderman Residences—the new temporary modular housing (TMH) complex, completed in February, in the Marpole neighbourhood. He moved there in early March, along with at least four other chronically homeless guys that both he and I know personally from the Fairview neighbourhood.

By March 24th, enthusiastic firsthand reports of how drug and drama free the Marpole TMH was, gave me confidence that “Pushcart”, “Juice”, “Chuckles”, “Suitcase” and Rick, had all finally found a place that they could call home.

So, until I found Pushcart Bob standing beside a shopping cart loaded with his personal possessions in the back alley on the south side of the 700 block of West Broadway Avenue, I had no idea that Marpole had lost him. Read more…

Why did the homeless person cross the road?

June 8th. at 7:22 a.m.: a homeless person nears the end of a good night’s sleep (I hope) on the north side of the 1200 block of West Broadway.

On the evening of June 7th I finally took note of something I had seen for some weeks and continue to see: a homeless person bundled snuggly and tidily in a sleeping bag in the covered walkway of a building on the north side of the 1200 block of West Broadway Avenue.

It wasn’t  the sight of someone sleeping rough on West Broadway that caught my attention, it was where this person was sleeping and where they weren’t—and why. Read more…

The etiquette of checking a street person for signs of life

I wasn’t too concerned about this bundled-up sleeper in the 1400 block of West Broadway, June 7th, at 7:24 a.m.

The steady rise of homelessness in Vancouver over the last 20 years has gone a long ways to desensitizing us to the sight of it, but most of us still worry for the people who we see sitting and laying unconscious in public places.

Speaking for myself, I hope that all these sleepers I see really are sleeping but I don’t necessarily know that. What I do know is that alongside the increase in homelessness, there has lately been a terrible increase in the toxicity of opioid street drugs and I know that a fatal overdose can be as innocent-looking as someone going to sleep.

And I think that maybe Ted, the homeless man who died in Tim Hortons last week would still be alive today if people had not assumed that he was sleeping.

So, because of fentanyl analogs and all the other potential causes of medical distress, I am never shy about waking up homeless and so-called street-embedded people If something about their appearance gives me cause for concern. Read more…

To live and die in Tim Hortons—homeless man staff thought was sleeping was dead

In an area bereft of any homeless services or shelter beds, the 24-hour Tim Hortons in the 800 block of West Broadway provides a little of both.

In an area bereft of homeless services or shelter beds, the 24-hour Tim Hortons in the 800 block of West Broadway provides a little bit of both.

An elderly homeless man who went by the name of Ted was pronounced dead at a hospital early Thursday morning (May 31) after paramedics found him in a lifeless and unresponsive state, slumped over a table, in the Tim Horton’s Restaurant at 865 West Broadway Avenue—a well-known focal point for homeless people in the Fairview neighbourhood.

The fact that Ted wasn’t just sleeping at his table but may have been in medical distress, or dead, went unnoticed by restaurant staff, for possibly the better part of half a day.

It was another homeless man in the restaurant—a friend of mine—who finally alerted staff to call 911 and who told me about the tragic incident early Thursday afternoon.

The first official confirmation of the death came from Andy Watson of the B.C. Coroners Service, to the effect that the Coroners Service was aware of the death of a male in his 70s at that location.

Late Thursday afternoon Cst. Anne-Marie Clark, Social Media Liaison officer for the Vancouver police, provided me with the following statement:

“We can confirm that our officers attended the Tim Horton’s located at 865 W. Broadway at approx 0430 hours this morning for a male in medical distress. The male was transported by ambulance to hospital, where he passed away approximately an hour later. Due to privacy reasons, we cannot release any further details.”

The VPD may say that Ted passed away after he was transported to hospital but, from what my friend saw firsthand, he is certain that death occurred in the restaurant.

According to my friend’s disturbing account, one of the responding paramedics was heard to estimate that Ted may have been dead for up to 12 hours. While all during that time, several shifts of staff came and went—all assuming that the well-know homeless regular was sleeping at his table, as was his habit. Read more…

City makes homeowner grant online-only, shafting thousands of elderly homeowners who don’t use computers

The City of Vancouver’s image of a youthful homeowner claiming the HOG.

Applications for the annual B.C. homeowner grant (HOG) are due on July 4th and people who own homes in Vancouver are receiving notices in the mail telling them that if they want to claim the grant this year, they must now do so online. As the City of Vancouver’s HOG webpage states:

“Starting 2018, there is no longer the option to mail in your grant.”

This sudden elimination by the City of Vancouver of support for claiming the grant by mail creates a difficult and potentially insurmountable hurdle for tens of thousands of elderly who are tax-paying Vancouver homeowners but not computer users. As such it is discriminatory and immoral, if not completely illegal.

I did not take the time to check more than a few other Metro Vancouver municipalities. But the ones I did: Abbotsford, Anmore, Armstrong, Bowen Island, Burnaby, Central Saanich, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Delta, Kamloops, Kelowna, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, Richmond, Surrey and Victoria, all offer both electronic and mail-in options for claiming the homeowner grant.

The District of Mission actually appears to have (as of 2017) eliminated the option of claiming the HOG online.

Maple Ridge makes a particular point of stating that (like all municipalities, apparently) it is “required to administer the Home Owner Grant Program on behalf of the Province of British Columbia” and many of the municipalities strongly encourage residents to claim the grant online, in order to save processing costs, but all I have checked, besides Vancouver, still offer their residents the option to use the mail instead of a computer.

The City of Vancouver should never have gone whole HOG (as it were) to electronic filing and it should immediately reinstate the mail-in option for claiming the homeowner grant in time for this year’s deadline! Read more…

A rare painter in the wilds of Mount Pleasant

The artful scene as I approached the bottle depot Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday (May 23), the temperature in Vancouver reached a high of 20° C—about 3° above the average. Hot, I thought, but hardy your proverbial Dante’s inferno.

Dante may have disagreed with me though. By his own admission he had been outside under the hot sun all day. But he was too busy with his painting to answer a lot of questions and I was likewise in a rush and plain forgot to ask him.

I should explain that “Dante” was the name given to me by the artist I saw standing up to his ankles in uncut grass, painting at his wooden easel, on the northeast corner of 7th Avenue and Ontario Street.

For my part, I was half a block from the end of my journey by bike to cash in returnable beverage containers at the recycling depot located in the alley off 7th and Ontario.

What with the load of bottles and cans burning a hole in my bike trailer and the depot closing at 5 p.m, I had better things to do than stop and chat with strangers but curiosity got the better of me. It looked like the fellow was painting a portrait of the rather unassuming building on the corner and I wondered why.

After a quick exchange of first names, I saw that the subject of the canvas really was the two-storey masonry brick building located at 7 West 7th Avenue and only the building.

I could see the appeal of the scene framed in the larger context of its overgrown surroundings but Dante’s painting was focused on the building and its barren, concrete parking apron—to the exclusion of the picturesque, gnarly tree beside him and the wild and unruly grass under his feet.

I wondered out loud if his painting had been commissioned by the retail occupant of the address (a florist) but no, I was told, it hadn’t.

He just liked the way that the building looked, he said, as he gingerly daub-daub-daubed more green “foliage” on the top left corner of his canvas.

Okay, I thought. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but fit subjects for painting are in the eye of the painter.

To my eye, his painting appeared more-or-less finished, so, for a final question, I asked him how long he had been at it.

“Since seven,” was his laconic reply. Meaning that he had been painting steadily for about 8 hours when I spoke to him at 3 p.m. Read more…