Survey indicates nearly one in four Metro Vancouver residents know someone who has recently been homeless
Nearly one in four Metro Vancouver residents say they know someone who is currently homeless or has been within the last five years, according to an Angus Reid survey released today (October 4) by the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness.
The survey also identified homelessness as one of the major concerns in Metro Vancouver, with 53 percent of respondents indicating they see the issue as a “major problem” in the region.
Alice Sundberg, the co-chair of the regional steering committee, said the results point to increasing empathy among residents for the homeless.
“People in Metro Vancouver are not so likely to blame homeless people for their situation, and…you get the sense from their response that they understand that this is not a personal thing—this is related to poverty and the lack of affordable housing, as well as other social issues,” she told the Straight by phone.
“It’s rewarding to know that the public is aware of the underlying causes and are more empathetic towards homeless people.”
Almost all respondents agreed that homeless people should have access to services and information that they need, and be treated with dignity and respect. A majority also ranked more affordable housing with support services as a solution for homelessness in the region.
However, over 50 percent of respondents said housing in their community should be there only for the people who can afford it—a result that Sundberg called “disheartening”.
“We really hoped to be able to break down those barriers,” she said. “If people believe that we can achieve inclusive communities, well that means your community too.
“For me, I think that we still have some educating to do, having people recognize that…inclusive communities are the healthiest, most vital and vibrant communities that you can have, so really trying to get that across to people and address that kind of fear and exclusiveness, or NIMBYism.”
The survey also showed that just one in three residents are satisfied with the work that the region is doing to address homelessness, compared to a dissatisfaction rate of 55 percent. Respondents said they want to see all levels of government take a greater role in addressing homelessness, with the provincial government ranked the highest at 90 percent, and municipal governments and community organizations both ranked at 86 percent.
Patrick Stewart, the chair of the Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee, said he was surprised to see that survey respondents aren't as likely to demand action from the federal government.
According to Stewart, federal funding for homelessness programs in Metro Vancouver has “eroded” over the last 12 years. Funding levels have remained at $8 million annually for the region in that time.
“The costs of things go up, but our dollar stays the same, and we’re able to do less and less… and homelessness numbers have gone up from 12 years ago,” he said. “So they’re trying to feed more with less.”
Stewart added the survey released today “raises more questions than answers” for his steering committee. He noted that while 58 percent of respondents indicated they support providing more affordable housing with support services to address homelessness, 60 percent said aboriginal homelessness should be reduced by increasing community development supports, such as job training and employment opportunities.
Stewart believes the findings point to a need for more education on aboriginal issues.
“Why do people not understand that aboriginal people are so over-represented among the homeless population, and why does that not translate into an urgency to deal with aboriginal homelessness?” he asked.
Today’s survey findings were released to coincide with Homelessness Action Week, which takes place from October 7 to 13.
The survey was conducted online between September 10 and 12, 2012 by Angus Reid Public Opinion and included 1,006 randomly selected adults in the Lower Mainland. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percent.