Yes In My Back Yard
"We believe that each of us has a role to play in building more inclusive, welcoming communities."
Imagine getting ready to move into a new neighbourhood and being told: “there are already too many of your kind here.” Imagine facing residents’ associations that want to know your personal history before you move in or neighbours who use emails, flyers and public meetings to question your right to be a part of the community. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many who have been impacted by poverty, homelessness, mental illness or addiction.
The expression “Not in My Backyard” or “NIMBY” means taking a defensive position against a planned project in one’s own neighbourhood. NIMBY attitudes and activism have popped up in response to projects as diverse as community gardens, needle boxes, group homes for disabled people, and emergency shelters.
Here in Vancouver, we saw a flurry of NIMBY activity in 2009 when City Council began to address the immediate need for shelter spaces through the Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT). The winter shelters, which were set up throughout the city, faced considerable opposition from residents of neighbourhoods outside the Downtown Eastside. In fact, vocal opposition from neighbourhood residents contributed to two of the shelters being closed ahead of schedule.
At Pivot we believe that each of us has a role to play in challenging NIMBYism and building more inclusive, welcoming communities. That’s why we have launched our “Yes, In My Back Yard” campaign. The goal of the campaign is to empower individuals, groups, and agencies to respond effectively and respectfully to the types of criticisms and pressures that impact socially conscious initiatives.
"A lack of decent housing is one of the most significant barriers to full participation in community life"
Now imagine that you have to move and your new neighbours – neighbours who say they have nothing personal against you – say damaging and untrue things about you through email, flyers, posters, internet blogs, and at public meetings. In British Columbia today, many people experience exactly this whenever a much needed service, like shelter or housing, is proposed.
We believe that everyone has a basic right to housing. That means community advocates, housing developers, elected officials, and compassionate neighbours must speak out when human rights are violated by NIMBYism. Otherwise, communities are emboldened to believe they can zone out people they see as “undesirable.”
The need for supportive housing in Vancouver and throughout the province – by which we mean safe affordable housing with support services for people with mental health and/or addiction issues – is undeniable. A lack of decent housing is one of the most significant barriers to full participation in community life. Without good quality housing, many people cycle between jails, hospitals, shelters and the streets, costing governments far more than the price of actually providing supportive housing!
"the right to access medical treatment is a human right"
Through campaigns of misinformation and fear, people across the country are fighting efforts by health authorities and community service providers to deliver health services to drug users that can reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C, prevent people from dying of an overdose, provide access to healthcare professionals, and stabilize their lives. Municipalities are responding with restrictive zoning and by refusing to grant permits for these facilities.
At Pivot we believe that the right to access medical treatment is a human right, and those rights don’t stop just because someone uses illicit drugs. Many people agree with this stand, but your voices are silenced by NIMBYism. It’s time for people who support evidence-based healthcare services to let their elected officials know of your support, and say “Yes, in my backyard” to harm-reduction.