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Ivan would agree—robbing those who have the least is most disgusting!

Walk this way? Ivan is a bike binner with a bit of a bum leg. The thief who stole his bike also stole his livelihood.

My homeless friend Ivan walks with a pronounced limp but, as a rule, he does not need to support himself with a cane—normally he supports himself with a bicycle. He supports himself financially by riding around the Fairview neighbourhood and collecting returnable beverage containers. And he supports himself physically when he needs to walk any distance by holding onto his bike.

But Monday evening (February 5) Ivan was supporting himself with a cane—one that he found in the garbage—because three days earlier his bike was stolen while he slept beside it.

The theft was the action of a moment and the thing that was stolen was an old, beaten up mountain bike; who knows what it meant to the person who stole it—perhaps a lot, perhaps very little; perhaps nothing more than an opportunity and an impulse not to be resisted.

But for Ivan, the bike represented freedom, mobility and—to be blunt—self sufficiency. Until another bike is found to replace the one that was taken from him, Ivan faces a difficult time earning money to support himself. Read more…

People living in vehicles don’t get ticketed—their vehicles do, says city

North along the 1700 and 1800 block of Glen Drive, July 2017, courtesy of Google Street View, with superimposed area parking ticket data.

My request for factual information from the City of Vancouver regarding the January 25 forced displacement of people living in vehicles along the elbow of Evans Avenue and Glen Drive has so far resulted in two responses.

Margo Harper, replying for the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, emailed to say that the Park Board had no record of complaining to by-law enforcement about the homeless people living in vehicles near the Evans work yard and she asked to be provided with any details (apparently over and above what was already included in my January 29 post) regarding “negative interactions.”

“We understand from City colleagues that homeless outreach staff have repeatedly visited RV’s in recent weeks and there was enforcement on Jan 25th. Our staff were not involved in enforcement which is the responsibility of the City.”

My request for a statement from the City of Vancouver’s by-law enforcement department resulted instead in the following softball from the city’s community services department:

The City is aware of individuals living in RVs in a few different locations throughout Vancouver and the Homeless Outreach team have been out regularly knocking on vehicle windows, speaking to people, offering assistance, and leaving contact information. The outreach team has been successful in moving people living in vehicles off the street and into housing and they continue to work with others to do the same. To date, they have housed 10 individuals sleeping in vehicles in the last year, and have also provided income, shelter or health services for 10 others.

It is not City policy to ticket people living in their vehicles, however illegally parked vehicles of any kind are subject to the street and traffic by-law that governs all parking. We are actively working to create effective and empathetic solutions to the current housing crisis, and are committed to finding long-term housing solutions for Vancouver’s residents.

Regarding, the camper vans along Evans Ave. and Glenn Drive, the Outreach team attended the location at the request of Parking Enforcement, who were receiving a number of complaints from residents and businesses in and around Grandview Highway and Rupert Street areas. The outreach team has visited the area twice in the last week to speak with individuals and to offer supports.

I’m sure that we are all glad to be told that outreach teams are actively trying to bring health, housing and other social services to homeless vehicle dwellers across Vancouver—although I’m wondering about the distinction made between housing and shelter. (are we talking permanent roofs over the heads of 10 people versus temporary emergency shelter beds for up to 10 others?)

However, I expect that all of this will come as news to my homeless, formerly RV-dwelling friend Francis.

Francis had been living for two weeks in a 6-metre motorhome (or roues-à-terre, if you will)  parked for five months on Evans Avenue, just around the bend from Glenn Drive. According to him, the January 25 ultimatum to move the motorhome (or face getting a ticket later the same day) came without any advance warning.

In the two weeks prior to the arrival of the man wearing the orange safety vest who delivered the verbal eviction order, no outreach teams visited the informal car camp and/or knocked on the door of Francis’ motorhome—at least not so far as he noticed.

Neither did he see any warning signs, or”sorry we missed you” cards from outreach teams tucked under the big RV’s windshield wipers, or taped to any of its doors.

And the area around the elbow of Evans Avenue and Glen Drive, where the various van and RV dwellers were rousted from on January 25, is entirely zoned light industrial—there are no residents to annoy and relatively few businesses. By far, the largest occupant in close proximity to the elbow is the City of Vancouver’s Park Board Evans work yard at 955 Evans avenue, with its dominating street frontage of over 300 m.

The Grandview Highway and Rupert Street areas mentioned in the community services department’s statement are in a residential neighbourhood full of both residents and businesses but it is located nearly 3 km east of the elbow of Evans and Glen!

At the time of writing I am still looking forward to receiving a response from Ethel Whitty, the City of Vancouver’s Director of Services for the Homeless since 2014 and the person in charge of coordinating the city’s outreach efforts. Click the image to enlarge it.

Vancouver versus the homeless car people on Evans and Glen

The view looking south west down Evan Ave. from the bend of Glen Dr., six months ago, on July 2017.—Google Street View

On Thursday, January 25, upwards of 15 parked vehicles—mostly motorhomes and camper vans—each serving as the housing of last resort for one or more people—were ordered to be cleared by the City of Vancouver from the elbow of Evans Avenue and Glen Drive, a stretch of lightly-used industrial road, located a kilometre east of Main Street.

Thursday morning at 9 a.m., my homeless friend Francis, who had been staying in one of the affected motorhomes for the last two weeks, noticed a fellow dressed in an orange safety vest taking an official-looking interest in his and his neighbour’s stationary vehicles. This interest involved tape-measuring the length of each vehicle and then taking photos of everything with his mobile phone.

When Francis went outside to ask what was going on, the man told him simply that there there had been a complaint and he told Francis: “you gotta go! They all gotta go!”

By “they,” Francis understood the man to mean the 14-or-so other vehicles in the immediate area that people were living in.

Like most of the other vehicles, the motorhome that Francis occupied had been parked on its spot on Evans Avenue for months (something like five) but he had only been an occupant for two weeks, serving as a sort of live-in guard for the actual owner, who (unlike the other car people) wasn’t homeless. The big RV was parked out-of-the-way on Evans because the owner felt that parking all 6-metres of it in front of his home would annoy and discomfit his neighbours.

Francis didn’t explain any of this to the man telling him to move, he just said that he would contact the owner and that the motorhome would be moved.

“That’s what I like to hear,” the man in the safety vest declared, adding: “I’ll be back to issue tickets later.”

But the fellow did not come back, at least, not before 3 p.m., when the motorhome’s owner finally had it towed to a new location by the BCAA. Read more…

Revisiting free city Wi-Fi along Fairview’s West Broadway—block-by-block

Late Sunday afternoon (January 21) the McDonald’s in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue was flooded by water backing up from both washrooms, with the result that the restaurant closed seven and a half hours early, at 4:30 p.m. If I couldn’t sit and write, I thought, it was a nice afternoon—I could at least do some neighbourhood research.

I decided to stroll east up West Broadway Avenue to Cambie Street and back again to test how accessible the City of Vancouver’s free #VanWiFi network signals were, coming as they mostly did from within private businesses.

Two days earlier I had written critically of the fact that over 64 percent of the city’s new free Wi-Fi coverage in the Fairview neighbourhood was located inside private businesses along a few blocks of West Broadway Avenue. I questioned how freely available this Wi-Fi was and whether it would be available after the stores hosting it were closed for the day.

What I found when I tested the actual availability and strength of the #VanWiFi network along 10 blocks of West Broadway Avenue, between South Granville Street and Cambie Street was honestly much better than I expected—there were blocks-worth of strong Wi-Fi coverage, quite accessible from the sidewalk.

At the same time, the coverage was patchy. Signal availability and strength varied by block; it varied by where I was standing in a given block and—quite significantly—it depended whether I was standing on the south or north side of the street (with the former being much better than the latter). Read more…

Nearly two thirds of “free” city Wi-Fi in Fairview isn’t freely available

A detail of the City of Vancouver’s Google map of #VanWiFi locations.

The City of Vancouver on Friday (January 19) announced what looks like a massive expansion of over 500 new locations to its free public #VanWiFi program. But looks are perhaps a little bit deceiving. In the Fairview neighbourhood at least, over 64 percent of these “free public” Wi-Fi spots are not located on public property but inside of retail businesses and doctor’s offices!

The #VanWiFi program began 15 months ago, on October 2015, in partnership with telecom provider Telus and saw free Wi-Fi offered in six Vancouver Community Centres to begin with.

The stated goal of the program in 2015 was to bring “free public Wi-Fi to civic locations throughout Vancouver.” But today’s massive expansion of the #VanWiFi program, including a large percentage of retail locations (if Fairview is any indication), is an indication of broader coverage goals.

The program likewise has a different telecom partner now—Shaw Communications, which is also a sponsor of the city’s Mobi Bike Share program—a fact that plays a part in today’s #VanWiFi expansion.

Read more…

Fun East Vancouver graffiti sticker is on the ball

In case anyone is interested, the black and yellow Playground Zone sign on the northwest corner of both 8th Avenue and Manitoba Street and Jonathan Rogers Park has been artfully stickered so that the sign’s silhouette symbol of a child with a ball is now wearing the uniform of the Toronto Raptors, which happens to be Canada’s only team in the U.S.-based National Basketball Association (NBA).

And we’re not talking just any old Toronto Raptors’ uniform but the purple and black version, circa-2000, bearing the number 15, which was worn by the great American shooting guard and small forward Vince Carter when he played for the Raptors between 1998 and 2004. Read more…