Saturday, February 14, 2009

Downtown Eastside Blues

Back in the late 80's PJ O'Rourke toured some expensively built social housing complexes, in the Bronx and Newark, NJ. They were filthy and depressing. The neighbourhoods were full of gangs, criminals and drug addicts. The welfare systems, started up by Lyndon Johnson in the 60's were not alleviating poverty as designed, but making it worse. He wrote of the interesting paradox:
You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money.

I had this in mind while reading this long article that tables some of the huge expenses that have been poured into Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Slum. Since 2000, the Globe tallies it at $1.4 billion. And the place is still horrible:
An open-air drug market still thrives five minutes from a police station. The bathrooms of decrepit hotels still serve as shooting galleries for addicts. Prostitutes still offer their bodies from the curbside. Drug pushers still prey on the mentally diminished, multiplying the misery.

Every city election they promise more money to curb homelessness. More shelters, affordable housing, drug treatment facilities. And it always gets worse. Homelessness goes up, property crime goes up.

Obviously, they need some new thinking. Perhaps re-opening some space in mental institutions, and starting welfare to work programs. Many people down there have long rap sheets, so perhaps longer sentences for repeat offenders. Tougher anti-panhandling and vagrancy laws. More cops.

My wife and I have visited San Francisco many times, since we've lived on the west coast. In the early 2000's Mayor Brown loosened up welfare requirements, and eliminated tough anti-panhandling laws. Within two years the place had gone to hell. The last time we were there, 2005, you couldn't walk anywhere without aggressive, rough looking people asking for money.

Being nice, and spending the big bucks worsen, rather than alleviate the problem. We need a Guiliani type to come in and do the tough but necessasary work.

1 comment:

  1. These sweethearts that give out government aid money just can`t get into their heads, that these aid programs never work. African aid, East Coast make work programs, hurricane relief, they are all a bust. You have to start from the bottom up.
    In Africa without law and order, private property laws, and uncorrupted government officials, there will be no chance to improve.
    On the Van Eastside, you might start with vagrancy laws, and a proactive police presence. People living in Vancouver actually except the idea that your household will broken into and robbed. "It happens to everyone" is the normal response from a Vancouver crime victim.
    Handing another billion dollars will solve nothing. Restoring law and order might a good place to start.