One homeless person, on average, dies every 11.4 days in B.C., according to housing activist and Olympic critic Am Johal.
Citing figures from the B.C. Coroners Service, Johal said in a news release that 96 homeless individuals have died in the province between 2006 and 2008.
The chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition rolled out these numbers a day after the B.C. Liberal government and the City of Vancouver opened on February 1 a centre in the Downtown Eastside that will provide foreign journalists covering the 2010 Olympics with information about this impoverished part of town.
Called Downtown Eastside Connect, the centre is located in the new Woodward’s development, and its opening day was met with a protest by anti-poverty and housing activists.
Johal dismissed the putting up of the centre as a mere public-relations exercise.
“For the government to be engaging in public relations such as the new information centre they set up is a perfect example of how the Olympics have been an attack on civil society in this province,” Johal said in the release.
Johal also criticized the opportunity costs of one-time Olympic spending. These include $900 million for security, $500,000 for city uniforms, and $300,000 for event tickets.
“The money spent for this propaganda kiosk by B.C. Housing is beyond comprehension since it is the public agency responsible for building housing—they should be building housing, not investing in propaganda,” Johal said.
Johal’s release noted that, based on the figures released by the B.C. Coroners Service, the cities of Vancouver and Victoria had the most deaths, at 21 and 18 respectively. Sixty-two of the 96 deaths over the three year period involved street homeless people.
Of the 96 deaths, 77 were male and 19 were female. The average age of those who died was 45, according to the release.