VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Metro Vancouver’s affordability crisis is making homelessness worse across the region. That’s according to a March survey, which shows 3,605 people identify as homeless in the region. 1,032 of them have no shelter at all.
Addictions and mental illness are factors, but according to half of the more than 3,000 people surveyed, the main barrier to housing access is the high cost of rent and lack of income.
“In order to stem growing homelessness, it is clear we need more affordable housing options,” says Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay, who is also the Chair of the Metro Vancouver Housing Committee. “Our Housing Corporation continues to pursue all avenues available to build more units and we continue to work closely with our counterparts at the provincial and federal level to tackle this crisis.”
This year’s total is up more than 800 from a survey done in 2014, with Vancouver, Surrey, and Langley marking the biggest increases.
“There are so many different groups who need help, but you need targeted strategies for each of the different groups and it’s really important to understand where we’re making gains and where we’re losing ground,” says Lorraine Copas, who chairs the Community Advisory Board. She adds, however, that help is already on the way.
‘I am encouraged by the re-commitment across all levels of government to actually actively work for change and I think that’s not political, I think everyone cares and we know that we can do better,’ says Lorraine Copas, who chairs the Community Advisory Board.
LISTEN: NEWS 1130’s Marcella Bernardo follows up with Lorraine Copas following unveiling of results
Earlier this year, the need was identified for at least 10,000 permanent homes, and more than 2,000 are already under construction.
Half of the region’s homeless population says they had lived here for 10 years or more before finding themselves living on the streets or in shelters.
About 22 per cent of those surveyed were employed part- or full-time.
More than a third of homeless people in Metro Vancouver identify as Indigenous or Aboriginal
More than one-third of all homeless –746– identify themselves as Indigenous and that’s the highest number since counts started.
David Wells, the chair of the Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee, says that’s mainly because no affordable housing is available.
“Certainly we know there’s a significant portion of indigenous homeless is people moving into the community looking for employment and educational opportunities. What the data tells me is that the existing matrix of services may not work for the indigenous homeless population as well as they could.”
In the 2011 census, only two per cent of the homeless identified as aboriginal.
Burnaby out of sync with Metro Vancouver: advocate
There was one positive from Tuesday’s homeless count; when the chair of Metro Vancouver revealed more communities seem more willing to do something about the issue.
At least one low-income advocate in Burnaby says his city is not one of them.
Murray Martin is a member of the Burnaby chapter of ACORN and asks why the province isn’t putting more pressure on Burnaby’s city council to support its population threatened by homelessness.
“We’ve got a war on poverty in Burnaby and it’s just to get poor people out of Burnaby.”
He says the city’s rental stock is dwindling and Burnaby is one of the only Metro Vancouver municipalities without a homeless shelter.
“The City of Burnaby is kind of out of sync with the rest of the lower mainland where they’re destroying massive numbers of purpose-built rental houses.”
Martin says people who end up homeless face sleeping in their car or getting pushed out to Vancouver where there are more supports in place for the homeless population.”It’s not like what happens in Burnaby is isolated to
“It’s not like what happens in Burnaby is isolated to Burnaby but by refusing to build homeless shelters, by continuously knocking down low-end market rental housing, it has repercussions in other cities in the Lower Mainland.”
NEWS 1130 has reached out to Burnaby’s Mayor and City Councillors for comment on the city’s efforts to address the local homelessness issue.