Where did the Pandora Good Neighbour Agreement come from?
Back in 2007, the city paid a private consultant to bring property and business owners on the 900-block together to set conditions on the expansion of Our Place. The result of this process became the Pandora Green Good Neighbour Agreement.
It officially came into existence on July 20th, 2009 and has been signed by Our Place, the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the City, Victoria Police, businesses and property ownerIt officially came into existence on July 20th, 2009 and has been signed by Our Place, the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the City, Victoria Police, businesses and property owner associations.
Why Does it Exist?
The agreement argues that “concerns have been expressed with individuals drawn to the area gathering on sidewalks and boulevards, camping in doorways, openly using and selling drugs, and engaging in vandalism and theft.”
The agreement then claims that it exists to “manage social issues to reduce or eliminate their impact on the immediate community.”
How Does it Work?
The agreement commits the people who signed on to keep buildings and grounds clean; to promptly remove graffiti; to modify the exterior of buildings to discourage loitering and camping; and, to use police to respond to issues.
It further commits service agencies to “deal with any client who causes disruption in the immediate neighbourhood” and to “assist in engaging the street community in the activities and initiatives of the good neighbour group.”
What is Wrong With This?
The agreement states that “social issues are a reality and a shared community responsibility.”
It also has a vision that “all neighbours of the 900 block of Pandora will be welcome and may enjoy comfort and safety in their neighbourhood.” Among the neighbours listed is “the street community.” This agreement does not commit anyone to consider the comfort and safety of people who are street-involved. It calls on the police to resolve social issues. It makes service providers look out for the needs of the privileged rather than the people they are supposed to serve. It shows more consideration for property values than it does for people who lack privilege.
This agreement reinforces stigmatizing assumptions about people who are living in poverty and makes the 900-block an unwelcome space for them. Overall, the agreement does not address suffering; it produces it, and contributes to making Victoria a place where people who live in poverty are marginalized.
What Needs to Happen?
A welcoming, safe and comfortable environment is crucial to the well-being of people who are marginalized. Signatories to this agreement need to listen and be accountable to how people who access services on the 900-block understand these terms.
The Committee to End Homelessness, supported by the Radical Health Alliance, are asking the questions that should have been asked back in 2009. We hope that the good neighbours of the 900-block will listen and take their responsibility to address social issues seriously.