– June 28, 2015
A blog about life in New Westminster
– June 28, 2015
Posted in Eats and Drinks.
– June 27, 2015
For Canada Day fun in New Westminster, head to Queens Park and the Quay this Wednesday, July 1.
The festivities begin at 11:30am in Queens Park, with activities and displays from community organizations and live music in the Bandshell until 3:30pm. The spray park and petting zoo will be open as usual, so there’ll be lots for families to do.
Then, after 3pm head down to River Market for face-painting, balloon-twisting and other activities for the kids. For the adults, head out to the boardwalk to catch some live music outside the Paddlewheeler Pub. The shops at River Market will be open late for those who want to pick up dinner on site.
For the literary-minded, there is a Poetry in the Park event from 6-8pm in the Queens Park Bandshell, featuring poetry readings and an open mic. Poetry in the Park is a weekly summer event hosted by the Royal City Literary Arts Society.
The day will finish with fireworks on the Quay at 10pm. Gather on the Quay Boardwalk near River Market for a great view, or watch in style from the Wild Rice patio (reservation-only seating after 8:30pm, so book ahead if that’s your plan!).
How do you plan to spend Canada Day?
Posted in Events.
– June 24, 2015
Starting this week, writer Laura Grady is contributing a weekly selection of events, activities and other fun stuff to do around New Westminster. If you have an event to add to this list, or want to let us know about something that’s coming up, please leave a comment to let us know about it!
Opening this week
Arts Council of New Westminster: Mermaids are Real
Dive into the mystical world of swimming mermaids. Through a series of stunning photographs, visitors will be swept away into a beautiful underwater world. The exhibit includes videos and the children’s book The Pink Mermaid and Other Tails.
June 24–July 19
1pm to 5pm
– June 23, 2015
“The Royal City” has long been used to describe New Westminster. While I love the dusty romance and nod to history of “The Royal City” as a nickname, the name-dropping title smacks too much of insecurity. New Westminster’s ‘royal’ connection is a tenuous one, not something I think should be the cornerstone of our identity as a city.
Posted in New Westminster.
– June 22, 2015
Posted in Community.
– June 21, 2015
Warning: once you start homebrewing, your house may never look the same again. You’ll have dozens of beer bottles, carboys, large pails, tubes, kettles, a propane burner, a mash paddle, thermometers, a hydrometer, and so much more. You’ll start to speak a different language: wort, trub, mash, decoction, vorlauf, sparg. And you’ll become part of a welcoming community that bands together in the pursuit of creating a unique beer you can call your own.
– June 19, 2015
Going to the Farmer’s Market this early in the season can feel a little like the movie Groundhog Day, each week bringing you new lettuce and herbs. While July and August bring with it an abundance of variety, it takes a while for the produce to ramp up (no onion pun intend). But there are goodies laced throughout. Certainly enough to inspire even the most novice cook to prepare a lovely, nourishing, Farmer’s Market Feast.
Posted in Eats and Drinks.
– June 17, 2015
The sun will soon shine again on Antique Alley.
When half of the the great grey hulking parkade is torn down to daylight Front Street, the strip between Begbie St. and Sixth St. will be transformed into Front Street Mews, a traffic-calmed, pedestrian-friendly shopping street featuring wider sidewalks, street trees and street furniture.
On Thursday, June 18 from 5-7pm, the City of New Westminster is hosting a public open house in the Anvil Centre ballroom to share their vision for the new and improved Front Street. Check it out if you want a sneak peek at the transformation planned for Front St. or to share your opinion on the proposed design recommendations.
Posted in Community.
– June 17, 2015
The decision to homeschool is a difficult one. For me, it was like a mental tennis game, I volleyed back and forth between the conviction that it was the right thing to do and the certainty that I would ruin my child’s life if I did it.
Posted in Family Life.
– June 16, 2015
Posted in Community.
– June 15, 2015
Taza Falafel House doesn’t look remarkable from the outside, and those who don’t know Middle Eastern food might never think to approach it. But once you’re in, you’re IN. I gave it 800 thumbs up for the items on the menu I had (plus the extras I ended up ordering for dinner that night because I couldn’t get enough).
Posted in Eats and Drinks.
– June 14, 2015
We are a fruit- and veggie-loving family, but when we load up on produce, I try not to do it at the big box grocery stores around here. The average price of produce is just too high at Safeway, Save-On, Buy Low and the like. I read the flyers for the loss leaders and in-season specials, but when I really need to stock up on veg I try to go to one of the local specialty produce stores for better selection, price and quality.
– June 13, 2015
The children in my daughter’s kindergarten class, like most in the district, are given 15 minutes to eat their lunches before they are sent outside to play. But it’s not really 15 minutes to eat.
That 15 minutes includes two dozen children lining up and washing hands at a single sink in the class. It includes the time to file into the cloakroom to fetch their lunch kits. It also includes the time to clean up their desks and put their lunch kits away. Talking and socializing are necessarily forbidden.
– June 12, 2015
If you’ve ever heard the term “place-making”, you’ll recognize that this is a process that is in full swing in New Westminster. The careful redesigning of public space in our little city offers opportunities to actively participate in a dynamic growing culture and history, simply by getting out and walking the streets and riverfront.
An example of this redesign is the commitment New Westminster has made to public art in the recent past with the introduction of a Public Art Policy and the PAAC (Public Art Advisory Committee) which I am happy to sit on this year. It appears that the city’s position on making Public Art an objective really recognizes the way it reinvigorates and humanizes our public places.
– June 12, 2015
The schoolyard at Lord Kelvin Community School is gray. Really gray. The teachers are sick of it, the kids are sick of it, and the PAC wants to do something about it. It’s time for #lessgraymoregreen.
New West’s inner city schoolyard needs a facelift. Our students deserve more green during the 30+ hours they spend at school each week. They show up at school and they’re greeted with this:
– June 11, 2015
Like many other families we’ve met since moving to New Westminster in fall 2013, my husband and I moved to New Westminster to find an “affordable” home for our family. We wanted a place that was walkable, near rapid transit and close to amenities. Living in a condo in downtown New Westminster fit the bill. Bonus: New West also has history and character. There are many things to like about raising a family in downtown New West – this is my perspective as a parent with a very young daughter (16 months).
Shops at New West
The enclosed kids play area directly underneath the skytrain tracks may not seem like much, but it really is a godsend on a rainy day. There’s plenty of nearby options for food and coffee, it’s covered from the rain, and you can often find other parents and kids there. It’s a nice place to let your kid burn off some energy before or after errands.
The Stage New Westminster
Since our daughter was about 6 months old, we’ve enrolled her in the Music & Movement classes located at their studio on Carnarvon St. Our daughter loves the classes, and we like it for the sense of community it gives us. We plan on continuing to enroll her in classes as she grows. We’ve met friends here that we now meet regularly at Pier Park for playdates.
The Quay, River Market & Pier Park
For us, these make New West livable, and a place we’ll seriously try to stay. We pretty much go here everyday with our daughter. What’s not to like? There’s plenty of space for her to learn to bike/walk without cars interfering, lots of dogs for her to check out, people to see, tugboats to inspect, plants to play with, swings, and playgrounds. It’s like a child’s paradise! Perhaps most importantly, River Market has fully equipped washrooms and places to buy food.
I think this is an under-utilized gem. In the summer, the Farmer’s Market is located here every Thursday, but year-round, this is a great place for little people to explore. We take our daughter here as a regular outing. It’s relatively quiet, there’s lots of room to wander, ducks to see, and bridges to cross. The water features are always soothing.
Living downtown means you’re within walking distance to pretty much everything you need (not just bridal shops!): there’s Shoppers Drug Market, Safeway, Donald’s Market, 3 different dollar stores, a movie theatre for the elusive date night (though Landmark also has family friendly movie matinees), plenty of restaurants, Schnoo and Pachooch for toys, Ribbons & Threads for baby stuff, and Brick & Mortar even has a section of adorable kids stuff.
Easy access to transit
One of the major benefits of living downtown is the easy access to transit. If we feel like mixing up the routine, we hop on the skytrain regularly to check out other regional parks, go to Metrotown, Science World, downtown Vancouver, or the Aquarium, to name a few destinations.
Overall we find downtown New West a very friendly place. We’ve made at least two “parent friends” by just meeting them at the playground and on the skytrain elevator. It’s so geographically constrained that you tend to see the same people regularly, fostering a sense a community and belonging. I’ve honestly been surprised at how much this has contributed to our quality of life.
We were thrilled to hear about the new requirements for condo developments to set aside a percentage of units for 2 & 3 bedrooms. There is so much potential for downtown New West to be an even more vibrant place to raise a family. There are; however, a few areas for improvement that I know have been noted elsewhere but bear repeating: traffic, affordability and daycare. The constant traffic noise really wears on us. If we have the windows open we need to pause the TV when a bus or truck goes up 6th St. Second, if we ever decide we want a yard, it’s very unlikely we’ll be able to stay in New West due to the cost of single family homes. Those are the only 2 issues that would make us consider moving. Lastly, there are very few daycares within walking distance, especially in the infant category. We’ve managed to find a space with significant effort and time, but we’ll have to drive to Sapperton.
Want to get involved? The Downtown New West Residents Association has monthly meetings.
What great family-friendly activities or amenities have I missed? Let us know in the comments
Posted in Community.
– June 9, 2015
I love downtown New West. I’ve been working and playing here for more than two years, and even in that short time I have seen it become an increasingly attractive, modern, and hip area that is luring droves of young people and families to its friendly streets. Yet even with the growing number of new shops, restaurants, and amenities popping up around downtown, I still face the daily struggle of finding a decent vegetarian meal when lunch or dinner time rolls around. Considering how well-stocked the area is with cafes, restaurants, markets, and food trucks, this is a surprising (and frustrating) problem.
I’ve been fully vegetarian for years, and these days it’s dead easy to shop and eat out in most places. Grocery stores are well-stocked with meat and dairy alternatives, and most restaurants worth their salt offer at least a few intentionally vegetarian items. What do I mean by “intentionally vegetarian”? This refers to options that were crafted to be vegetarian from conception, not a meat-based meal with the animal products removed upon request (which can often be of inferior quality). With vegetarianism, veganism, dairy-free, and other alternative diets at an all-time high, there is simply no excuse for a modern restaurant not to have a few solid veggie entrées.
That’s why I’m consistently surprised and disappointed by how few great vegetarian and vegan options there are in downtown New West. At the River Market on New West Quay, most of the restaurants have limited vegetarian entrées, and many have no vegan choices. Wally’s Burgers‘ only “meatless” option is a fried egg on a bun (off-limits to vegans and egg-free vegetarians), and some establishments are actually reducing their vegetarian options rather than beefing them up (pun intended). In fact, my initial inspiration for this post stemmed from a recent depressing lunch break in which I was informed by a staff member at Re-Up BBQ that their delicious vegetarian chilli is now made with bacon fat. Ignorance is bliss… (Editor’s note: Re-Up BBQ responded via Twitter after this was published to say that the veggie chilli with bacon fat was a test item on the menu, but the chilli now on the menu “and for the foreseeable future” is vegetarian – BT)
The Shops at New West have a somewhat better selection of vegetarian fare, mostly because the establishments tend to be larger regional or national chains. Yet even the gastropub Hub, where I enjoyed a relaxing patio dinner with my S/O recently, offers only 2 vegetarian options out of their 12 entrées, and 2 of their 5 salads have meat ( sorry vegans – all of them have cheese). For a large restaurant with a seemingly hip and modern vibe, I was once again disappointed.
So where can a hungry veggie get a tasty and reasonably-priced meal in downtown New West? In the River Market, Pamola has a delicious mushroom burrito (although with a generous helping of cheese it’s not vegan-friendly), and the spinach and feta quiche at Tre Galli is a lunchtime staple of mine. Downtown also has several Japanese restaurants with vegetarian options, but my personal standby is Togo Sushi with their tasty wakame salad and yam tempura rolls.
At this point you might be thinking that us vegetarians are too demanding – after all, nobody forced me to go meat-free. Why should everyone have to cater to my personal choice? Yet there are so many more reasons why restaurants ought to offer good vegetarian and vegan options. Firstly, not everyone is meat-free by choice; many people need to be for medical or religious reasons. Secondly, vegetarian and vegan entrées can be great healthy alternatives for those looking to watch their salt, fat, or calorie intake, or those simply looking to boost their daily servings of fruit and veg. Thirdly, intentionally veggie dishes are delicious and unique. Removing protein staples such as chicken, beef, or fish from the kitchen arsenal can inspire chefs and home cooks alike to think outside the box and create exciting new flavours. Finally, vegetarian and vegan dishes are inclusive; they are usually more affordable, and are suitable for most diets, from the most restrictive, to the diehard carnivore. As a vibrant, multicultural, and forward-thinking neighbourhood, I think downtown New West deserves more vegetarian options.
What are your favourite vegetarian/vegan spots in New West? We would love to hear your suggestions!
Posted in Eats and Drinks.
– June 8, 2015
A year or two ago, we were hanging around the house when we noticed a smoky smell. Stepping out on our patio, we noticed smoke clouds coming from Grimston Park. My husband Will went over to check it out and found a small brushfire starting near the roadway. We called the fire department and discovered several other neighbours had as well, and a fire truck was already on its way. Someone had flicked a cigarette butt from a passing car and it ignited the dry grass on the side of the road.
Just like that summer, this is proving to be a hot and dry one, and the City is asking for all of our help to prevent fires like the one we spotted from happening by being mindful of backyard fire pits and BBQs, and taking care not to do boneheaded things like flicking smouldering cigarette butts into dry grass.
A City press release says:
Crews from New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services have extinguished a high number of recent rubbish and bark mulch fires, and have inspected the conditions in all city parks and interface areas. With several local municipalities issuing fire bans and advisories due to similar weather conditions, New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services continues to watch weather forecasts and prepare for any changes to the fire risk.
“It is starting to feel like summer and more people may consider barbequing or using their fire pits; we ask everyone to be very careful and alert,” added Armstrong. “If anyone sees a fire or notices any smoke please call 9-1-1.”
New Westminster residents are asked to be cautious in the city’s large natural growth parks and green spaces where there are dry grasses and shrubs. Remember to only dispose of smoking materials in proper receptacles and the use of charcoal briquettes is strictly prohibited.
If you have questions about fire safety in New West, or related issues, you can call our fire department at 604-519-1000.
Posted in Community.
– June 8, 2015
An eleven year old girl in Saanich is petitioning her municipality to re-write bylaws to make it easier to own miniature goats in residential areas. She argues that miniature goats can provide pure milk and natural fertilizer, are excellent lawnmowers, and asserts the bylaws (maximum two goats on lots larger than 1.6 acres, and the goats must be females, neutered males, and dehorned) are too restrictive.
Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell says he supports her idea, and the process to reconsider the bylaws is underway.
This fun little nugget of news appeals to the media on a few levels – the age of the petitioner, the trend of backyard farming, and, of course, the quirkiness and popularity of goats – so the story has grown some legs and prompted a few letters to the editor and national exposure.
Saanich would not be alone should they ease the goat restrictions – I could find a number of cities that allow goats with restrictions in the city – Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland are good examples.
But like all media we consume, we tend to view it with our own lens. So, let’s talk about goats in New West.
Just like chickens, which have always been allowed in our backyards, New West already allows livestock in residential areas. No petition to City Hall required!
Curiously, the bylaws governing urban livestock and poultry aren’t in the recently overhauled Animal Care and Control bylaw (Sidenote: excellently re-written, New West – kudos), but rather in the Public Health Bylaw, # 4271, last revised back in the 60’s, but written in the 30’s. I double checked with the City that the bylaw still stands, and sure enough, the helpful people at City Hall confirmed that yes, Bylaw 4271 is alive and well, though quite infrequently accessed.
Feel free to read them all yourself in all their rickety PDF glory: the poultry and rabbit bylaws start on Page 2, and the animals section – which refers to cows, calves, horses, mules, sheep and goats – starts on page 3. Note the absence of pigs – Bylaw 4271, 9 (a) states pretty clearly that that keeping of swine is forbidden.
Like most cities that allow goats, there’s some tight conditions to keeping them, so tight in fact, that it’s basically impossible unless you are a kooky and/or goat loving billionaire. Development of the city means we have very few unused large plots of land, and those that don’t have some sort of building on them are privately held. The bylaw states (among other things);
9 (b) No animal shall be kept in any shed, pen, or other enclosure situated at a lesser distance than 150′ from the nearest dwelling, place, or house, nor less than 25′ from any road, street, or lane.
9 (c) No animal shall be allowed on less than 1 acre which shall be exclusive of land occupied by dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.
9 (d) For each animal, 1 acre of land will be provided exclusive of dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.
9 (e) For each additional animal, one half acre of land will be provided exclusive of dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.
9 (f) The maximum number of animals on one site shall be five (5).
An acre is 43,560 square feet. My 1912 house sits on a lot roughly 5,000 square feet. It’s a bit smaller than the average lot, a long skinny thing with smaller frontage than typical, but still not the smallest lot in the city. Even if I had no house, shed, or garden (which I have all of), I’d need nearly 40,000 extra square feet. Calculating for the 18 houses on my block (I’m on a cul de sac), I’d say I’d need roughly $15 million dollars to buy all my neighbour’s properties, knock them down, and install my goat into his/her yard.
That’s one expensive goat.
This is a post from our new monthly series, Ask Arbo, in which I answer questions sent in by you! Quirky and random questions about our fine city encouraged! What do you want me to find out?
Posted in Community.
– June 6, 2015
Green grass enthusiasts beware! Watering restrictions are now in place in New Westminster from June 1 until September 30. Water demand nearly doubles in the summer and rainfall is minimal. To help conserve water supplies, the ity wants people to water lawns in the morning, which is more effective as evaporation is minimal.
To stay healthy most lawns only need about 25 mm (1 inch) of water per week, including rainfall. This is equal to 1 hour of watering a week.
Residential – Monday, Wednesday Saturday from 4:00 am to 9:00 am
Non-Residential – Monday, Wednesday from 1:00 am to 6:00 am
Residential – Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday from 4:00 am to 9:00 am
Non-Residential – Tuesday, Thursday from 1:00 am to 6:00 am
Both Even and Odd Addresses Non-Residential only
Friday from 4:00 am to 9:00 am
There are some exceptions to the restrictions:
If you are looking for other ways to help conserve water, installing a rain barrel could be an option.
The City of New Westminster sells 75 Gallon Rain Barrels for $75 (includes tax).
For more information about the watering restrictions or purchasing a rain barrel, please contact Engineering Operations at 604-526-4691.
Posted in Community.
– June 5, 2015
Summer heat came early with a May that was one of the driest on record, and it’s only getting hotter. Thankfully, New West has a pretty great list of spray parks, splash pools and even a couple beaches where you can suntan on hot sand.
Spray Parks: Open from 10am-7pm, Victoria Day to Labour Day
Outdoor pools – Open from the last weekend in June until Labour Day
Free admission to Moody Park Pool & Hume Pool on weekends, and just $2 for adults / $1.50 for kids and seniors during the week.
When a beach where you can swim is the only thing that will do, you have to settle in for a bit of a drive or public transit adventure. Here are a couple of favourite ‘field trips’ from New West:
What about you? Where do you go to cool off on a hot summer day?
– June 4, 2015
— Jonathan Cote (@jonathanxcote) June 3, 2015
If I didn’t know how long it takes to get things done at City Hall, I’d think the Mayor of New Westminster must be reading my blog.
The first of five parklets planned for the city over the next five years, the East Columbia parklet is expected to be finished this summer. The City’s goal is to create one new parklet per year over the next five years.
New West blogger Brad Cavanagh revealed he actually watches council meetings, beating me to the punch on his blog with a pretty great summary of what a parklet is, and what the City’s plans in this direction are:
For those who don’t know, a parklet is a mini park set up as an extension of a sidewalk. They’re not very large, typically fifteen to twenty meters long, and about three meters wide. They’re places for people, set up to allow people to meet, sit, and relax. Vancouver has five parklets, and they’ve been big hits almost everywhere they’ve been put in.
Yep, those are the very same kinds of public spaces I raved about after coming home from NYC: little enclaves of social civility and peace amid the hustle and bustle of sidewalks and streets.
Coming upon a parklet introduces a wee frisson of joy during a walk through a city. But it isn’t just a feel-good move. It’s actually a savvy economic development move. Cavanagh’s post shares links to studies in other cities that found adjacent businesses typically see between 9-20% more business following the installation of a parklet. Good news for Fratelli, Bloom Bloom Room, Sushi Heaven and the other businesses at that end of East Columbia!
But what about parking? As Sapperton resident Jen Arbo put it, the boon to businesses will far outweigh the loss of a couple of parking spots.
— Jen Arbo (@jenarbo) June 3, 2015
Councillor Patrick Johnstone also wrote about the parklet in a council meeting summary post on his blog:
Parklets are great ideas, and they can really improve the pedestrian and retail space in a commercial district. The City is piloting our first Parklet this summer in Sapperton, with plans to introduce another annually (at least) for the next couple of years. Staff has been given a modest budget, but a lot of flexibility to find partnership opportunities, design ideas, or creative innovations to make the Parklets fit local needs in our different neighbourhoods. I was really happy Council endorsed this program, and that staff is not only excited to implement it but have provided a really nice design for New West Parklet #1.
The initial reaction from both businesses and residents was pretty positive on Twitter:
@jonathanxcote parents will love this, while their kids are at dance. We can't wait to see it!
— Kids In Motion (@KIMDanceStudio) June 3, 2015
— Gye Incognito (@gye_incognito) June 3, 2015
But not everyone was pleased. The announcement irked at least one Quaysider, where gardening budgets have been cut back:
.@jonathanxcote Quay gardens suffering because request for needed $$ in budget was denied. Now there is more need for parklet gardeners. ??
— Kay Johnson (@noteworthi) June 3, 2015
What can I say? New West loves its greenspace. Note to council: Don’t mess with our parks.
– June 3, 2015
As parents of kids in New West schools know, each school has a PAC, and they never stop asking for your money. Although PACs are familiar, a lot of people aren’t sure exactly what they do or why they do it – and why, no matter how much you donate, it is never enough.
“PAC” stands for Parent Advisory Council. PAC members work very hard to represent the parent voice within their children’s schools. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, School Districts started forming PACs in order to increase family involvement in the education process (this is according to the Vancouver School Board PAC handbook). It became school board policy that all schools must allow the formation of a PAC, and that members of the PAC executive should be chosen by election. Since then, PACs have been an integral part of the BC education system, representing the voices of families.
PACs have been involved in everything from evolving curriculum and communicating with School Boards, to creating school lunch programs and raising funds. However, the PACs’ responsibilities have become increasingly weighted towards the latter. PACs have long been responsible for providing schools with things like hot lunches and activities, but they are now also providing schools with money for field trips, playgrounds, and technology. PACs are becoming a high stakes game, and schools are slowly becoming “have” or “have-not” due to the ability of its PAC to raise those funds. I spoke to some PAC members and parents, and there are some very telling commonalities in the typical PAC that indicate whether its school is a “have” or “have-not.”
When I asked PAC members and parents what one of the main issues was with today’s PAC, the number one answer was parent involvement. When I was a child in the 80’s, I remember my parents’ PAC meetings being a meeting place, a place to socialize, to be involved, and to get sh*t done at the school. There were always at least 20 people at the meetings, most of them on the executive. And this was a school with only 150 kids! That’s quite a ratio! The school I now work in, has a membership of 4, and an average attendance of the same.
Parents assume that they have to commit huge amounts of time to the PAC. And if there are only 4 people attending meetings, you DO! But the more people involved, the more work there is to go around, and the less time it takes to do said work. Then, the work is shared more equitably. The PAC president at my school is here most days, all day. spearheading fundraising, arranging hot lunch days, researching grants, organizing various after-school fun activities, etc. It’s a full time job that she doesn’t get paid for. Some may say, “Well she signed up for it!” And if it was signing up for something that only affected her family, fair enough. But it affects all the families in the school, and if the PAC isn’t providing, the school suffers. PAC members who work their butts off burn out quick. When I asked PAC members and parents what their top wish would be for, one of the top things was more parent involvement.
One of the other top wishes was for more funding from the government. PACs receive money from the government, and over the years, there have been more and more stipulations put on how the government allots that money, and what the PAC can use that money for. For example, PACs have to have a minimum number of members to get funds, and must fill out mountains of difficult paperwork. PACs also receive funding from the BC Lottery Corporation, and over the years, the funding has not caught up to inflation, which means the funding is actually getting cut more and more. Meanwhile, the BCLC is making more and more money, each year and passing that money on to big Crown corporations that work specifically towards the government’s agenda. BCLC money can only be used for certain things. Technology is not one of them. And what are schools lacking in the most? Up to date technology.
As I mentioned before, in the ’80s, PACs played an integral role as the family voice in new district policies, governmental curriculum development, and school communities. However, as PACs’ plates have become more and more full with providing for the schools they represent, their ability to communicate at those levels has declined.
District PACs, or DPACs have popped up. And Provincial PACs, or the BCCPAC. These new representative groups have taken on the responsibilities of policy change and educational reform. Therefore, there should be a lot of communication between DPAC and BCCPAC and the local school PACs, right? Nope. In most cases, none at all. DPACs and BCCPAC have adopted their own political agendas over the years, and the formerly non-partisan organizations have become decidedly partisan in their agendas. These agendas, for the most part, have no link to the average schools’ needs. Local school PACs feel they have little to no voice outside their own school. And even within their school, some feel segregated.
With the rise in dependence on the PAC to provide funding for field trips, school supplies, and even teacher funds, PACs have also noticed less teamwork between teachers and PAC members. In the ’80s, teachers, principals and PAC members worked side by side, creating school communities where children thrived and school was “fun.” Now, PACs are becoming more and more disengaged with teachers, finding it difficult to communicate.
When a PAC asks how they can help teachers, teachers want money for more opportunities to provide students with fun and engaging activities. And that means more money from PACs. The fundraising machine runs non-stop. Programs that used to be free are no longer free, such as the Aquarium and Science World. Some programs have been cut altogether (such as swimming and skating) and therefore those field trips and programs have gotten more and more expensive, and all due to lack of funding on those programs’ own parts. And the PAC is still there, needing to toe the line. With fewer and fewer members doing more and more, with less and less.
So the next time you get, yet another, PAC notice asking for money, hopefully you will understand that grabbing money from you is the last thing the PAC wants to be doing. And it is the last thing they should be doing too.
Posted in Family Life.
– June 1, 2015
The most obvious solution to problems with homelessness and vagrancy is also the cheapest, most effective and most feel-good solution: shelter those who need it. It’s called a ‘housing first‘ strategy, and it has led to New Westminster’s striking reduction in the number of homeless people living in our city.
Between 2002 and 2008, the population of homeless people in New Westminster increased 118%. Thanks to policy changes, collaboration with community members and a partnership with BC Housing, New Westminster was able to help many of those who were unsheltered to find homes. Between 2008 and 2011, the homeless population shrank by 43% and by another 17% between 2011 and 2014. Key to this success was that BC Housing partnership, which created 84 transitional and supported housing units, as well as housing referral, outreach and advocacy programs that helped prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
However this approach is in jeopardy due to funding cutbacks. According to New West Senior Social Planner John Stark, New Westminster-based homeless outreach, referral and advocacy programs are facing $382,000 in cutbacks this year. This is in addition to significant cutbacks in 2013 and 2014 to other programs serving those who were homeless or at-risk. Furthermore, changes to program eligibility requirements are making it difficult for some in need to access services.
It is penny wise and pound foolish to cut back on programs like these. When people are homeless, the public pays for it in increased policing and hospital costs.
As the New Yorker put it, homelessness is an expensive problem when you do nothing to solve it.
Homeless people are not cheap to take care of. The cost of shelters, emergency-room visits, ambulances, police, and so on quickly piles up. Lloyd Pendleton, the director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force, told me of one individual whose care one year cost nearly a million dollars, and said that, with the traditional approach, the average chronically homeless person used to cost Salt Lake City more than twenty thousand dollars a year. Putting someone into permanent housing costs the state just eight thousand dollars, and that’s after you include the cost of the case managers who work with the formerly homeless to help them adjust. The same is true elsewhere. A Colorado study found that the average homeless person cost the state forty-three thousand dollars a year, while housing that person would cost just seventeen thousand dollars.
It is cheaper to house the homeless than to leave them on the streets. And it is cheaper still to help prevent people at risk from losing their homes in the first place.
A January 26 report to council from the City’s Development Services Department outlined the potential impacts of these funding cuts:
This loss of funding will have a significant impact on the community, as the programs in question enable residents to maintain their existing housing, locate new housing in crisis situations and address issues which may contribute to their homelessness. They also target some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, including low-income individuals, frail seniors and women and children who are at-risk of homelessness or who are fleeing abuse … the loss of the programs in question will make it more difficult for staff to make referrals in case of eviction or homelessness, contribute to increased street and visible homelessness and place increased pressure on Bylaw Enforcement, Police and Social Planning, with its associated costs.
The report concluded with the recommendation that the City should direct staff to approach senior levels of government to explore alternative or new funding sources for housing outreach, referral and advocacy programs in New Westminster. I think that’s a great start, but I also think citizens in New Westminster who have noted and approved of the decline in visible homelessness need to remember that it was no accident.
Programs like those provided by Lookout, The Hospitality Project, Elizabeth Fry and Women In Need Gaining Strength and the Senior Services Society are our bulwarks against homelessness. Even those of us who are privileged with health, employment, and emergency funds find it a struggle at time to make ends meet in pricey Metro Vancouver. Imagine how difficult it must be for those who must also cope with addictions, chronic physical health problems, mental health issues, domestic abuse and other factors that introduce extra barriers to employment and making rent.
Note: the information on homelessness in New West and the cuts to local programs came from a report to council created by the Development Services Department. I would link to it, but I was not able to find it online. This report was shared at the February meeting of the Community and Social Issues Committee, of which I am a member. The report was presented for our review and discussion, and I thought the information was worth sharing more widely.
Posted in Politics.