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Posts from the ‘Homelessness’ Category

“Welfare day” in British Columbia

Today I’m releasing the results of an FOI request I submitted several years ago, before last provincial election in British Columbia. It provides insight into what the previous government knew about the harms of “cheque day,” also known as “welfare day,” or “welfare Wednesday.” This is the one day of the month in British Columbia when the vast majority of funds are distributed to individuals who qualify for income assistance and/or disability assistance.

This was my request:

All records related to Income Assistance and Disability Assistance cheque issue dates including but not limited to: government communications and policy decisions regarding cheque issue dates; internal discussions about the 2014 study from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS that links “cheque day” with increased illicit drug overdoses:

and any policy changes suggested around the new date schedule, any government communication with external groups about the study, and any previous or subsequent internal government research about this; any government communications, emails, memos, notes, etc, regarding the new research underway known as TASA Cheque Day:

; all records associated with the change to public notification of cheque issue dates for the current year when prior to 2015, government made the past 5+ years of cheque issue dates available on its website. (Date Range for Record Search: From 01/01/2013 To 01/24/2016)

Here are the results of the above FOI request.

It is worth noting that ever since 2016, the British Columbia government only gives public notification of the Income Assistance and Disability cheque issue dates for the current year (presently, 2018).

However, prior to late 2015, the BC government always made at least five years of cheque issue dates available on its web site, as shown by the Wayback Machine internet archive. (If you follow the above link you may have to scroll down to see the actual cheque schedules.) I’ve included the last available five year schedule of the cheque dates below for anyone who is conducting research in this area:

Income Assistance and Disability Assistance Cheque Issue Dates

2015 Schedule
For the month of     ->     Cheque issue date
January 2015     ->     December 17, 2014
February 2015     ->     January 21, 2015
March 2015     ->      February 18, 2015
April 2015      ->      March 25, 2015
May 2015      ->      April 22, 2015
June 2015      ->      May 27, 2015
July 2015      ->      June 24, 2015
August 2015      ->      July 29, 2015
September 2015      ->      August 26, 2015
October 2015      ->      September 23, 2015
November 2015      ->      October 21, 2015
December 2015      ->      November 18, 2015
January 2016      ->      December 16, 2015

2014 Schedule
For the month of      ->      Cheque issue date
January 2014      ->      December 18, 2013
February 2014      ->      January 22, 2014
March 2014      ->      February 26, 2014
April 2014      ->      March 26, 2014
May 2014      ->      April 23, 2014
June 2014      ->      May 28, 2014
July 2014      ->      June 25, 2014
August 2014      ->      July 23, 2014
September 2014      ->      August 27, 2014
October 2014      ->      September 24, 2014
November 2014      ->      October 22, 2014
December 2014      ->      November 19, 2014
January 2015      ->      December 17, 2014

2013 Schedule
For the month of      ->      Cheque issue date
January 2013      ->      December 19, 2012
February 2013      ->      January 23, 2013
March 2013      ->      February 20, 2013
April 2013      ->      March 20, 2013
May 2013      ->      April 24, 2013
June 2013      ->      May 22, 2013
July 2013      ->      June 26, 2013
August 2013      ->      July 24, 2013
September 2013      ->      August 28, 2013
October 2013      ->      September 25, 2013
November 2013      ->      October 23, 2013
December 2013      ->      November 20, 2013
January 2014      ->      December 18, 2013

2012 Schedule
For the month of      ->      Cheque issue date
January 2012      ->      December 21, 2011
February 2012      ->      January 25, 2012
March 2012      ->      February 22, 2012
April 2012      ->      March 21, 2012
May 2012      ->      April 25, 2012
June 2012      ->      May 23, 2012
July 2012      ->      June 27, 2012
August 2012      ->      July 25, 2012
September 2012      ->      August 29, 2012
October 2012      ->      September 26, 2012
November 2012      ->      October 24, 2012
December 2012      ->      November 21, 2012
January 2013      ->      December 19, 2012

2011 Schedule
For the month of      ->      Cheque issue date
January 2011      ->      December 15, 2010
February 2011      ->      January 19, 2011
March 2011      ->      February 16, 2011
April 2011      ->      March 23, 2011
May 2011      ->      April 20, 2011
June 2011      ->      May 18, 2011
July 2011      ->      June 22, 2011
August 2011      ->      July 27, 2011
September 2011      ->      August 24, 2011
October 2011     ->      September 21, 2011
November 2011      ->      October 26, 2011
December 2011      ->      November 23, 2011
January 2012      ->      December 21, 2011

2010 Schedule
For the month of Cheque issue date
January 2010      ->      December 16, 2009
February 2010      ->      January 20, 2010
March 2010      ->      February 17, 2010
April 2010      ->      March 24, 2010
May 2010      ->      April 21, 2010
June 2010      ->      May 19, 2010
July 2010      ->      June 23, 2010
August 2010      ->      July 21, 2010
September 2010      ->      August 25, 2010
October 2010      ->      September 22, 2010
November 2010      ->      October 27, 2010
December 2010      ->      November 24, 2010
January 2011      ->      December 15, 2010

Having five years of welfare cheque dates makes it a lot easier for researchers who are interested in tracking overdose deaths, police calls for service, medical emergencies, hospital admissions and so on.  However, despite my request for “all records associated with the change to public notification of cheque issue dates for the current year when prior to 2015, government made the past 5+ years of cheque issue dates available on its website,” no positive results came back when I got the Freedom of Information results. And so it appears there are no records whatsoever that document the decision of the previous provincial government to reduce the list of publicly available cheque dates from five years to only one year. This, in turn, limited the ability of researchers to analyze the potential harms of “cheque day.”

Open Letter to the Mayor of Victoria

I saw this in the newspaper yesterday. It’s an open letter to the Mayor of Victoria, Lisa Helps, from a group of almost fifty residents of Lower Burnside-Gorge. Please note that I didn’t write this and I’m not involved with this group. The letter was published as a paid advertisement in the Times-Colonist:

Open Letter to the Mayor of Victoria


From a collective of 49 Lower Burnside-Gorge Residents

Submitted to the Mayor on June 12th, 2017

Dear Mayor Lisa Helps:

Victoria is growing fast, and with that growth comes homelessness, despair and higher on-the-street drug use. In response, Rock Bay Landing, the Super 8, the facility on Queens, the Tally Ho, et cetera – within the Lower Burnside-Gorge area – have been re-purposed to deal with the homelessness problem. Is it the city’s intent to tacitly agree to have the Lower Burnside-Gorge area serve as a de facto ghetto in order to insulate other neighbourhoods from issues that arise from this homelessness – similar to what has happened in Vancouver with the notorious Downtown Eastside? If not, then now is the time to take action.

With the concentration of facilities to house the homeless building up around the Lower Burnside-Gorge, a ghetto-scenario is being created. Investors are unlikely to choose to invest in this neighbourhood if such a ghetto-scenario occurs. The Douglas Corridor will miss out on condos as envisioned in the new Neighbourhood Plan and the creation of a vibrant core of restaurants, retail and grocery stores will be curtailed.

If the city does not believe that the Lower Burnside-Gorge is becoming the de facto concentration area for homelessness, poverty, open-air drug trade, mental illness, sex work and ultimately, crime, then we ask that the city’s planning department conduct a mapping exercise showing the capacity and location of all facilities being developed to address homelessness. We would like to see the data for ourselves, to determine if an even distribution is being deployed.

BC Housing indicated at a public meeting that they are cognizant of the saturation point of social housing in a community. So we ask: when will the Lower Burnside-Gorge be at this point of saturation? We believe Lower Burnside-Gorge has already reached this point.

The operations of Rock Bay Landing by the Cool Aid Society clearly shows that such social housing, if inadequately managed or used over capacity, overflows onto the streets surrounding the facility causing disruptions and leaving behind garbage and used needles.

The Portland Hotel Society (PHS) has shown that a facility can be managed well and so far the Super 8 has not had the high number of incidents seen elsewhere. That being said, the PHS was announced to the public through the Times Colonist and – without any public consultation, was renovated and occupied. It currently does not have the proper zoning and it is operating in violation of the zoning bylaw. Only after it was well established did the residents get a briefing at a community meeting on its progress. At this meeting the residents asked for regular community meetings to get updates. At the update meeting we heard that BC housing is suggesting that the former liquor store at the Super 8 be turned into a shelter.

BC Housing has now made known to the public through the Times Colonist that the Tally Ho is going to be a housing facility operated by the Cool Aid Society. Cool Aid does not have a very good reputation of managing facilities and if past history is any indication, it is likely that this social housing project will cause problems for neighbours. Many residents have made lifetime investments only to see the city put the drug and homeless problem directly into the centre of the community without consultation or input. Rock Bay Shelter, PHS’s Douglas Community, Cool Aid’s Tally Ho and the Queen Street facility are all within a few blocks of each other and unless proper planning is done, residential streets and back alleys will become travel corridors and injection sites creating a security nightmare for residents.

We need the backend of the Tally-Ho to be blocked off, forcing traffic to enter and exit through Douglas Street. If not the back alley directly across from the Tally Ho will become an ad-hoc injection site for the facility’s resident “guests”… both wanted and unwanted. The fastest point between the Rock Bay Shelter and the Tally Ho will be through the residential community if a barrier is not created behind the Tally Ho. Residents MUST have input into the development of the Tally Ho before any permits are issued and before it is renovated and occupied.

The city’s consultation record for the Lower Burnside-Gorge has been bleak. For example our park was taken to build the Rock Bay Shelter with ‘fait accompli’ consultation.

It is our expectation that the city responds to the questions directly and implicitly stated in this letter, namely:

  1. What steps is the city taking to stop the Lower Burnside-Gorge area from turning into a de facto ghetto?
  2. Will the city’s planning department conduct a mapping exercise showing the capacity and location of all facilities being developed to address homelessness within the city and make this data publicly available?
  3. When will the Lower Burnside-Gorge be at a point of saturation, where the city will stop further social housing developments?
  4. How is the city addressing overcapacity, garbage and overflow onto the streets surrounding the Rock Bay shelter?
  5. Why does the city allow a facility to move forward without proper zoning?
  6. Will the city allow approve another shelter if BC Housing requests to have the former liquor store at the Super 8 turned into a shelter?
  7. Will the city force the Cool Aid Society to consult with the neighbourhood on how the backend of the Tally-Ho will be designed before the project can move forward?

Yours truly,

Residents of the Lower Burnside-Gorge