Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Oct 11, 2010)

Gimme Shelter *

By Bob Cooper




Forecasts of one of the coldest winters in history have been like manna from heaven for the Commissars at 12th & Cambie (and all of their confederates in the poverty industry).  The rhetoric/deflection factory in the basement is running 3 shifts and they’ve brought in more supplies than there is road salt at National Yards.

The Mayor kicks off Homeless Action Week in the Province with dire predictions of massive death as the next ice age overwhelms Downtown Vancouver unless Victoria coughs up a bunch of cash.   Cue the submarine klaxon horns:  “You’ve only got seconds to get to the shelters.  Hurry!  Don’t stop to look at those empty, 3+ million dollar bicycle lanes or you’ll freeze to death.    Women and children first.  No, Wait!  Women, transgendered, aboriginals, children, and the marginalized…..damn, I’ve lost my place.   Never mind.   Get out of the way!   I’ve got lives to save.   And no running!”.

Then he recalls the case of ‘Tracey’, the homeless woman who burned to death beside her shopping cart in 2008 after lighting a candle.  He told the Province, “It was only days after I got into office that Tracey died on Davie Street because she couldn’t access a shelter.  A shelter opened, literally, a few days after that, just a few blocks away.  We weren’t in time to save her.”  Cue the dramatic organ music:  “I held on for as long as I could but the current just pulled her under”.  Woman’s voice:  “Oh Gregor, you mustn’t blame yourself.  Tracey wouldn’t want that.  You did all you could”.  Sobbing Gregor:  “Yes.  But it wasn’t enough….sniffle…”  Fade out.

What the Mayor fails to mention here is that on the night Tracey died, District One cops checked on her 3 different times and offered to take her to a shelter but she refused each time.  The Mayor would have you believe that Tracey went from shelter to shelter being turned back into the cold for lack of space but it just isn’t so.  Two people also wrote in at the time to say that Tracey hailed from Abbotsford where she also lived outside, dealt drugs, and stubbornly refused all offers of assistance.  I’m not being hard-hearted and this woman’s death was a tragedy but if you’re going to invoke her memory to use her as a political prop at least be truthful.

The Mayor then switches to his ‘hip’ role saying that he makes a point of personally keeping in touch with the situation on the ground.  “I’m a night owl, so I’m out on the street, late at night, visiting shelters, and staying connected to people and places”, he said.  Oh, please, I’m sure there must have been a TV show like this in the late 60s.  Probably opposite The Mod Squad or Starsky and Hutch.  Reminds me of Bill Clinton when he called himself the first black president.  Cue canned jazz music or theme from ‘Shaft’.  Rear shot of Mayor walking away down empty street, hands in pockets of leather coat, collar up.  Checking things out.  Steam rising from sidewalk grates.

All of this would make a great disaster movie sequel.  Thousands of homeless streaming down Hastings Street trying to outrun the advancing glaciers & being mowed down by heartless motorists.  If only they’d lowered those speed limits like VANDU said.  Where’s George Kennedy when you need him?

As good as this would be, I’m really at a loss to explain why the Mayor can’t see the solution when it’s right in front of him.  According to the latest count there are 428 homeless people in Vancouver.  Thanks to this administration’s own brilliant property management they’ve got that much space at City Hall alone.  There are so many empty offices most of the homeless could have their own rooms.

No thanks necessary, Your Honor.  Just doing my part as a good citizen and pointing that out.

* Gimme Shelter The Rolling Stones, 1969 (Written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards – from the album Let It Bleed)


Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver police officer. He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.


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