Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman doesn't have a problem with bureaucrats calling the Downtown Eastside "colourful." That's how the troubled neighbourhood was described in a BC Housing concept paper proposing the creation of a homelessness information centre for media and visitors attending the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Earlier, New Democrat critic Shane Simpson said it was a "disrespectful comment to suggest it's colourful." But, speaking with Public Eye, Minister Coleman responded, "If you'd ever been down there, you'd know it's actually true. There's a very colourful community down there - a cross-section of people who are pretty interesting folks."
In fact, the Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA and former RCMP member said he walks around the community once every two or three weeks to talk with its residents.
"The last time I was down I met a guy named Rick from Fredericton who was pushing his cart up the street. I actually helped him pull his cart over some gravel. And we chatted about how long he's been out here, where he lives," recalled Coleman.
"He lives in an SRO in Vancouver and he works at a coop and he also collects bottles and he's quite happy living in Vancouver. And I think, quite frankly, I'm hoping we can put something together for the Olympics because I'm happy to be down there every day to tell people internationally just how good a job we do with homelessness - better than any other country in the world."
That being said, though, Minister Coleman hasn't made a decision on whether to go ahead with the proposed homelessness information centre, which was revealed in heavily blacked out documents exclusively obtained by Public Eye.
"It is strictly a concept paper right now. And it's coming to my desk to go over," the minister added. "And I'll be meeting with people at BC Housing and others in the next week or ten days."