Are staff at the Gathering Place being hired based on sexual orientation rather than on their ability to do the job?
I have never set foot in the Gathering Place, a centre downtown which was modelled on Carnegie Centre, and set up by a former Carnegie Director, Diane Mckenzie. It has more young people amongst its clientele than Carnegie though. And it caters to many homeless and street people, a population that is predominantly male.
One would think that a primary criterion for getting hired at GP would be to have a comfort level with the clientele. But men who use the Centre are resentful about the contempt they're encountering there. One man who regularly goes to GP was telling me about a lesbian staffer. "She says "womyn" not "women", and when I talk to her she won't look me in the eye. She doesn't want to look me in the eye because I'm a man".
Another man who uses the GP says that a butch lesbian who works there is gruff and hardened in the way she speaks to people when she's clearing out the dining area. Like she thinks that getting paid over $20 hr. to work with the poor, is a license to treat them with disrespect. These complaints aren't coming from women, all are from men.
These guys don't sit around gay bashing. They don't care if a gay or lesbian gets hired, as long as they're qualified. But they believe that the over representation of gays and lesbians on staff at GP is an indication that somebody is getting their friends hired. They listed off all of the employees who were lesbian or gay. One guy explained that to get a job with a City of Vancouver, people used to say that you had to have a relative working there. Now it seems as if your sexual orientation can get your foot in the door. (Having a relative can still help though. Skip Everall at Carnegie reportedly hired his son to work under him.)
Hiring based on sexual orientation rather than merit damaged Ray Cam Community Centre when it opened it's doors years ago to cater to the youth in the social housing next door, a real ghetto. The staff was predominantly white lesbians, most of whom had terrible people skills. They were supposed to be offering role modelling to the youth, many of whom were native, hispanic, and black males. A few years later, I ran into a guy who used to lift weights there and he told me how great it was at Ray Cam now and I should drop by. I told him that I had long ago stopped going there because the lesbians treated me like I was subhuman. He knew instantly what I was talking about and said, "Oh, they got rid of that group".
I'm wondering if the City has shifted it's old Ray Cam hiring practices to the GP. These practices are one step removed from a casting couch.
One thing that all the men sitting talking to me about GP agreed on was that, "The staff there have eeeeeasy jobs." One guy qualified that assessment by noting that the woman who works in the laundry does work for her pay. Anyone can take their laundry there and get it done for free.
One thing I noticed when sitting with these guys is that they feel the same powerlessness at GP as people at Carnegie Centre. They knew that taking any kind of stand in the face of staff mistreatment would get them nowhere because CUPE -- Cover Up for Poor Employees -- would cover asses. And these guys don't read blogs.