What is the VLA? VLA stands for “Veteran’s Land Act”, a government policy that created the community as a low-cost place for soldiers who served in World War II to own homes. But over the past half-century demographic changes gave way and increasingly, the area is called “the hood.”
The rates of poverty, crime, and social problems in the VLA are among the worst or the worst in the province. There have been shootings. Over half of the people released from the local jail wind up living here. There are a lot of welfare cheques delivered.
At the same time, there’s a lot of positive work being done. It’s one of the few neighbourhoods I’ve been to that actually feels like a neighbourhood. Since less people have cars, there’s more walking- and more getting to know other people. There are programs and volunteers working to make improvements, and succeeding.
Once our team came up with the idea of running a series to capture a sense of life inside the VLA, I jumped at the chance to take the lead, and have been working on it off the side of my desk since.
I’ve collected many, many story ideas and hours of raw tape that capture bits and pieces of everything happening in the VLA. Now I have just a couple of weeks to try and hone it down to something that makes sense and does justice to the people whose lives I’m attempting to represent.
I know at best I’ll only get a small slice, and I’m trying to manage my own expectations. In my head I have an idea of what I want everything to sound like. But I also know I’ve never produced a full series before, and I’ll probably fall short. But hopefully I get at least partway there and am able to try again.
If you’re in Prince George, there’s a live event on January 24 to go with the series that will hopefully spark discussion about the divide between the VLA and the rest of the city, and how to bridge that. Details are on the website and Facebook. Series starts January 20.
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By the way, this post came out of my challenge to write 500 words a day. It’s been changed from the original version, but it may be interesting to compare if you’re interested in doing something similar.