Richmondites for Modular Housing

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(後有中文翻譯)

Our names are Joannie Fu and Vinson Shih and we are students from the University of Toronto. We have spent our childhood and adolescence in Richmond and continue to call it home. Planning to base our futures here, we are deeply invested in our community. Recently, it has come to our attention that there has been some vocal opposition against the planned modular supportive housing initiative to be built at 7300 Elmbridge that will help those experiencing homelessness and women fleeing domestic abuse. Many of the arguments presented by the opposition work to perpetuate misinformed ideas of homelessness and foster unfounded fear against people experiencing homelessness.


We are starting this campaign to show our support for the fellow members of our community that lack a home, and hope that you can join us in creating positive change by urging City Council to approve the proposal.

Richmond as a compassionate community:

  • People experiencing homelessness are human beings that deserve to have a place to call home.
  • As a predominantly immigrant-based community, many of us have experienced racism or discrimination for being from another place and for being unable to adapt at times to cultural norms. Thus, we think we should be even more empathetic to others who are currently experiencing discrimination and hardship in their lives.
  • Equating and generalizing those without a home as criminals is the same type of argument that fosters the racism many Asian-, Chinese-, and Muslim-Canadians before us have and continue to face. By examining our misconceptions and stereotypes that foster fear against those we deem as different from ourselves - recognizing that we are all human - is the first step in creating positive change in our communities.

Benefits of the housing initiative:

  • Opportunity to educate our children on values of compassion and empathy. Instead of teaching our children to fear those that seem different based on their circumstances, this is the perfect opportunity to educate our future generations on the effect on individuals of not having a home, and how we can work together to solve the problem through community involvement, community stewardship and volunteerism.
  • Greater engagement between people with different life experiences. We see it as an opportunity where community members can volunteer, where community events can be held, and where we can build greater connections with each other, understand different lived experiences, and create a stronger and more welcoming community.
  • Provides housing and safe shelter for both those experiencing homelessness and women fleeing domestic violence. One of the most vital steps we can take as a community is providing structures in which these vulnerable groups are able to break free from cycles of vulnerability and develop a stronger sense of independence with support from their community. The modular supportive housing program is a practical step towards making that happen.

Addressing the arguments against the project:

"It will bring crime and drugs into the community"

  • Conflating those experiencing homelessness with criminality and drug-abuse is a problematic assumption not based on facts.
  • Crime and drug abuse is not limited to any one group of people. Crime exists on all social strata of society and cuts across all levels of wealth, race, gender, and country of origin. 
  • Many 'dangers' we attribute to homeless people are symptoms and products of their fight for survival in a state of deprival. To deny these people the resources they need to exit this cycle would be inhumane and counterproductive.

"A 'safety' concern for children in the community"

  •  Schools and teenagers in Marpole have responded to their community’s own homeless housing initiative with enthusiasm, and have conveyed their support to those fighting homelessness through acts of kindness and volunteerism. This has occurred not only despite of, but perhaps in response to, a vocal minority of adults who have used children’s ‘safety’ as an excuse to broadcast their prejudice and cause users of the housing program to feel unwelcome in the community. This project is the perfect opportunity to teach our kids to empathize with those that seem different from them, as Marpole has shown, and to foster values of love, care and support within the community. The concerns of ‘safety’ are easily alleviated when people take the time to build connections and get to know the people who will use the facilities.
  • City of Richmond spokesman Ted Townsend said BC Housing has a “very extensive, comprehensive tenant selection process” that the RCMP participates in, along with other organizations. “If there are tenants that pose a potential risk to the community, they will be screened out through that process,” he said.

"The housing should be built elsewhere"

  • The modular supportive housing initiative seeks help the 70 people within Richmond that lack a home. To suggest housing be built elsewhere is irresponsible not only because it minimizes the toll of being dislocated, but diminishes the human worth of those experiencing homelessness.


Refusing to challenge the prejudice and stereotypes held against people experiencing homelessness in order to argue that they either do not deserve to be helped, or that they should be housed elsewhere, takes advantage of the vulnerability of people experiencing homelessness as one of the most marginalized populations in our society who do not have a say in their own future.

 


Call to action:


We call on the council to approve the modular housing initiative to help people out of homelessness and women experiencing abuse. The program is an important step in ameliorating the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our community. The opposition and fear against the initiative are largely based on unfounded claims of danger. We must not allow those in positions of power and privilege to impede on our responsibilities to those in need. The initiative is an opportunity to build a stronger, more compassionate, more enriching and more equitable community we can all call home.

 


Joannie Fu and Vinson Shih

joannie.fu@mail.utoronto.ca

vinsonshih96@gmail.com

 

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你好,我們是來自列治文的多倫多大學畢業生施祖葳和傅中寧。列治文是我們從小成長的家,也會是我們未來繼續成長的地方。自然的,我們對這個社區非常關心。近來,我們聽聞許多對提供無家可歸者及受虐女性而籌備建立的組合屋計畫反對的言論。這些論述大多源於對無家可歸者不公道地、也和事實不符地刻板印象所產生的歧視和恐懼。

我們邀請您和我們一起展現我們對組合屋計畫、無家可歸者、及受虐女性的支持。經過我們團結的努力,我們將為我們的城市帶來更多溫暖及關懷。

  

認識組合屋計劃

組合屋不是避難屋而是中繼住宅,提供無家可歸者安身之地、協助住戶脫離貧困及無家可歸的惡性循環,突破被迫露宿街頭帶來的身心影響及財務就業障礙。它是解決無家可歸問題務實的首要步驟。

  • 提供穩定的居所:安全地、穩定地居所是任何人生活及維持身心靈健康的最基本要素,有安身之地也是重返社會及尋求經濟獨立的前提。
  • 專業的社工及輔導人員:組合屋將有專業人員協助住戶重返社會獲得經濟獨立,幫助他們學習生活技能、找工作機會、及與醫療機構連結。
  • 經得起檢驗的住戶篩選:組合屋住戶經VAT面試及相關標準審慎評估他們的需要及對社區的影響。面試及背景調查發現對社區不利的行為或犯罪歷史者不會獲得入住資格。此篩選標準是BC Housing實行已久的配套措施,位於Richmond Centre和圖書館旁的低收入租屋Rosewood Village也一直使用同一標準
  • 受社區監督:組合屋由人員24小時監管,問題住戶則由附近居民列席的管理會議處理。

我們的立場:列治文是一個人道的城市

  1. 無家可歸者是列治文社區的成員,和我們一樣是值得被尊重愛護的人
  2. 居住正義是每一個人最基本的人權
  3. 列治文是一個移民社區。我們許多的成員都親身經歷過因為外表的不同而遭受的歧視與不公。因此我們認為我們更應該關懷及理解和我們不同的人。向經歷過我們無法想像的摧殘及辛苦的無家可歸者展現關懷及理解,是解開歧見的第一步。
  4. 將無家可歸者和犯罪、毒品畫上等號所透露的歧視,和對華裔加拿大人過去遭受的歧視相當(排華政策、人頭稅、太平洋鐵路),都是源自於對陌生群體的誤解、歧視產生的恐懼 。因此,身為華裔加拿大人的我們更應以自身的遭遇及教訓作為反歧視的領導者,檢視自己對我們不熟悉的群體所懷的歧見及誤解。當我們正視每一個人的人性及存活的價值時,我們就能改變世界。

組合屋計畫如何對我們有利?

  • 教育我們的下一代同理心和人道關懷的好機會:與其教導他們對於和他們不一樣的人心存猜忌及恐懼,不如教導他們有關無家可歸對人身、心、靈的影響,以及如何以展現公民責任心、積極參與社區服務的方式解決我們社會的問題。
  • 提供擁有不同人生經歷的人之間展開對話及理解的好機會:透過社會連結,組合屋住戶及社區成員能夠搭建理解的橋樑,認識不同族群及貧富階級的人,以及他們的故事、人生經歷。透過交流及融洽相處,我們將建立更穩固、包容的社會。
  • 幫助無家可歸者及提供受家庭暴力的女性躲避的重要設施:提供弱勢族群所需要的生活規律、日常所需、及社會連結是讓他們打破惡性循環及尋求自主的一大幫助。組合屋是達成這個目標的一項務實措施。

無家可歸者需要我們的幫助

無家可歸是社會結構性因素所致。貧困,及被迫露宿街頭帶來的身心影響及財務就業障礙更是導致惡性循環的關鍵。無家可歸及其帶來的歧視,絕不會是任何人自願的選擇

  • 結構性問題:80年代起歷屆聯邦政府縮減福利開支,包括終止低收入住宅補助等社會住宅政策及大幅度取消向各省政府撥款的社會福利預算,導致各省府大幅度關閉心理健康設施、縮減社會福利及補助等至今從未有所改善,造成福利制度無法有效地、整體性地輔助弱勢族群,激化貧富差距,是加拿大90年代起出現嚴重無家可歸問題的主因(Donnan, 2014, p.589; Herman, 1992, p.482)。
  • 令人震驚的危機:2007年,時任聯合國人權高級專員辦事處居住正義專員(Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing )Miloon Kothari 對加拿大的社會政策導致的無家可歸問題稱之為「令人震驚的危機(shocking crisis)」。 http://miketodd.typepad.com/waving_or_drowning/files/20071020Kothari_Statement1.pdf
  • 經濟環境挾持:最低工資停滯不變,經濟結構性改變導致工作類型從以往長期、受保障的穩定職缺趨向於低技能、短期、約聘工等非傳統勞動模式激化了弱勢族群經濟不穩定(Broad & Antony, 2011, p. 30; Donnan, 2014, p.588)。
  • 房價負擔:溫哥華房價近年異常的高漲,導致雖有工作但無法承擔房價而流落街頭的窘境已成常態。

組合屋的必要性

  • 提供中繼住宅是政府為提供弱勢族群持續的、全方位的、永續的扶助措施中其中的重要一環:無家可歸問題長期遭受忽視,組合屋是得來不易的成果。組合屋幫助的是實質需要的人,也是解決問題必須踏出的第一步。
  • 忽視不會解決問題:無家可歸者如果無法受到關懷或照顧,更會使社會問題持續。唾棄他們於列治文街頭上而不顧並不會解決無家可歸者對社會添加的負擔。

破除對無家可歸的錯誤觀念

  • 研究(Vlahov 等人, 2004)顯示壓力是導致使用毒品及無法戒毒的一大主因,而我們對無家可歸者的刻板印象可追朔到他們無家而困於街頭的種種困境。
  • 研究(Novac 等人, 2006)顯示無家可歸者犯罪的主因是貧困、被迫露宿街頭帶來的困境中必須謀求生存的產物 。  http://www.urbancentre.utoronto.ca/pdfs/researchprojects/Novacet-al-207-JusticeHomeless2006.pdf
  • 誰都可能跌入谷底:現今因經濟因素、房價負擔、缺乏福利補助等結構性問題,除了刻板印象中的單身男子外越多無家可歸者為單親家庭、兒童、及婦女(Donnan, 2014, p.590)。

對反對者所提及的疑慮做回應

「列治文不需要這類的住宅,或應設於別處」

  • 列治文的組合屋是專門為列治文本身已存在的最少70名無家可歸者所設
  • 填補漏洞:Salvation Army 提供無家可歸者的住宿每月因人數限制須拒絕超過130所需者,而 Chimo Community Services 提供受虐婦女的收容所每月因人數限制必須拒絕40-60受虐婦女。
  • 他們是社會的一員:研究顯示弱勢族群在地理環境中會試圖建立對彼此相互照護的緊密關係,而對於周遭環境的熟識度也是生活中的重要基石。就像任何人一樣,突然被迫遷離自己所熟悉的環境(特別是缺乏資源時)帶來的身心影響不可小看。
  • 交通便捷:7300 Elmbridge 交通便捷,與大眾運輸工具、市中心、醫院,文化教育設施等非常靠近,有利於實質幫助無家可歸者重返社會、建立人際關係及社會連結、及尋找工作。設組合屋於偏遠地區和組合屋設置的基本宗旨背道而馳。

「無家可歸者不用住處,他們需要的是工作」

  • 穩定住處是每個人都需要的:有生活中的穩定和安全才有辦法脫離無家可歸的惡性循環。
  • 工作本身不會解決問題:穩定住處、工作、及社會輔導是讓人脫離無家可歸的三大要素。擁有工作並不代表能夠脫離無家可歸,而大塭22%的無家可歸者雖有工作但無能力取得住處。
  • 組合屋協助經濟獨立:組合屋正是為協助無家可歸者跨越結構性障礙尋找工作而設。

「無家可歸者會給孩子們帶來不良影響/影響孩子們的安全」

  • 於溫哥華馬寶區(Marpole)的中小學生自身發起歡迎無家可歸者入住馬寶區新蓋的組合屋。他們懷著同理心積極的和無家可歸者交流及幫助他們融入社區。然而,當地家長利用「孩子們的安全」為由示威及搗亂,導致許多無家可歸者不敢入住。這一個對比顯示了組合屋給予孩子們的正面影響 — 相對於他們的長輩,他們除了有能力分辨什麼會真正傷害他們,更學會了如何跨越歧見、關懷他人。
  • 精神健康問題在社會各個角落都存在。擁有精神健康問題並不代表會造成安全問題,而此類說法也是對受心理健康問題所困的人的歧視。
  • 如果我們努力搭建社會橋樑,並深入了解他人的生活經歷及處境,關於「安全」的類似託辭將不足以取得公信力

 

我們若選擇不正視自己對無家可歸者的歧見及刻板印象以主張他們不值得幫助、或應「離自己遠一點」,是利用無家可歸者的社會、政治、經濟弱勢及邊緣化進行剝削。

 

施祖葳 (Vinson Shih) 及 傅中寧 (Joannie Fu) 

vinsonshih96@gmail.com

joannie.fu@mail.utoronto.ca

 



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