Homelessness doubled ahead of Vancouver Olympics, report shows

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      Homelessness more than doubled in Vancouver between 2002 and 2008 but it’s unclear whether the 2010 Winter Olympics are to blame, according to a new report on the impact of the Games.

      Released this morning (December 4), the report—prepared by a University of British Columbia research team for the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee—notes that a 2008 homeless count found 1,576 homeless persons in Vancouver, up from the 628 homeless persons documented in 2002.

      In Metro Vancouver, 2,660 homeless persons were counted in 2008, compared to the 1,121 homeless persons recorded in 2002.

      Meanwhile, the homelessness rate—the number of homeless persons per 1,000 people—in Vancouver jumped from 1.09 to 2.56 between 2002 and 2008.

      In Metro Vancouver, the homelessness rate increased from 0.53 to 1.17 between 2002 to 2008.

      “In summary, both the absolute homeless count and the homelessness rate increased between 2002 and 2008, which suggests that the increase in homelessness was not due simply to an increase in population size,” the report states.

      According to the report, while Vancouver’s homelessness rate increased by 134 percent between 2002 and 2008, the number of places in homeless shelters went up by 103 percent between 2002 and February 2009.

      In Metro Vancouver, the homelessness rate increased by 121 percent while the number of places in shelters rose by 108 percent.

      “All in all, the increase in places in homeless shelters for the past 6-7 years (supply) does not appear to meet the need (homelessness rate),” the report states. “This is based on the number of homeless per place in shelter, and the situation seems to be worsening.”

      In Vancouver, 950 new affordable-housing and social-housing units were built between 2001 and 2008, the report notes.

      The number of social-housing units rose by 3,490 between 2001 and 2006. (This figure includes both newly built and converted units.)

      While the number of social-housing units per 1,000 people in Vancouver increased from 35.6 to 39.4 between 2001 and 2006, in Metro Vancouver it decreased from 22.3 to 21.8.

      “To summarize, there has been an increase in the number of affordable housing and social housing units in Vancouver between 2001 and 2006,” the report states. “Despite this increase, additional data suggest that this increase has not yet met the need for such housing. In 2006, 3,577 households in the city of Vancouver were on waiting lists for social housing.”

      A footnote in the report mentions that the Pivot Legal Society’s list of the number of social-housing units that have closed in Vancouver since the city won the right to host the Olympics stands at 1,448 units.

      “Nongovernmental organizations like Pivot Legal Society suggest that the 2010 Games has led to an increase in homelessness, while at the same time also leading to a decrease in the number of units of affordable housing and social housing (through gentrification, cleaning out of neighbourhoods, etc),” the report states.

      It continues: “However, a lack of available data does not allow for conclusions to be made with reasonable certainty about the situation. Specifically, we cannot discern whether the increase in homelessness is due to individuals in Vancouver/Metro Vancouver being displaced and becoming homeless, or due to an in-surge of homeless into Vancouver/Metro Vancouver from other parts of Canada (which in itself may or may not be caused by the upcoming Games).”

      The report notes the originally planned “legacy” of 252 social-housing units in the Olympic Village is “in question as the result of recent events”, namely financing troubles.

      Dated December 1, the Pre-Games Results Report of the Olympic Games Impact (OGI) Study for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is the second report in a series of four reports mandated by the International Olympic Committee.

      Overall, the report concludes the upcoming Olympics have had a "very slight positive" impact.

      You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.



      clovis 1

      Dec 5, 2009 at 7:52am

      It seems logical to me that the increase in homelessness has increased as a result of a number of reasons, number one the cost of renting in a place in metro vancouver is quite high. How many people are are only a paycheque from living in the streets?

      The current recession certaintly has to be factored in, Metro Van has weathered the storm better then most areas as a result of the Olympics and other construction projects in the lower mainland. Therefore people from across the country come here hoping to get employment unfortunately end up in our streets.

      Why is it the federal government, starting with the Liberals and continued with Conservatives refused to put in place a full national housing strategy, why are we the only G8 nation without a national housing program?

      The global cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal know the patterns of globalization and some of the social issues that come with it. Homelessness is one area they are aware of and should be working together with all levels of government to address.

      Poverty Pimps

      Dec 5, 2009 at 7:59am

      How much money has been spent on homelessness since the inception of the national homelessness strategy? It cost alot more money for these programs then if the government would just reinvest in a national housing strategy.

      The poverty pimps who receive these program dollars are silient on this , afraid they may get their program cut and have to take a hit on their salary.


      Dec 6, 2009 at 3:08pm

      Another option is for us to pay for bus tickets out of Vancouver to areas with lower housing rates. Its not like the homeless in Vancouver are contributing at any level, why should we front the bill for housing projects especially for them.

      I make a good salary and I have to scrape by so I can live where I do. Why should others do nothing and be afforded the same privilege for doing nothing?

      Global City

      Dec 6, 2009 at 8:01pm

      The issue with Options logic is that it is inconsistent with empirical based studies. The patterns around the world, particularly in the highly developed nations is that urbanization is on the increase and will continue. This is a direct result of the outsourcing of manufactoring jobs and the new division of labour on a global food production. People have minimal options in rural Canada.Sadly it is what it is, so sending people on buses will not solve the fundamental issue of meaningful employment.

      I agree with you on the issue you raise about working hard and just making it by, I am in the same boat. I also do not believe in hand-outs when a hand-up would benefit all in society. Certaintly the elderly, single mothers, working poor would benefit from societal help in my mind. But it still leaves the real issue of those who just can not find gainful employment.

      It is becoming a priviledge now to get into post secondary educational institutions as rising cost of living and tuition continue to skyrocket out of most peoples grasp. I am sure this impacts young people more.

      How much of the money that we put into Employment Insurance Fund could be redirected to help people get into a better position as we continue to globalize our city?


      Dec 7, 2009 at 8:15pm

      Many, if not most of the homeless people in Vancouver are drug users. Apparently about 85% of the street people in the DTES are infected with hepatitis C, to give an indication of their lifestyle and level of health. Homelessness and drug, alcohol and gambling addiction are closely related. There needs to be a much greater commitment not only to providing an adequate supply of affordable, dignified living units for low income people, but a much greater commitment to both preventing drug addiction and providing immediate, effective drug treatment programs for all effected individuals.

      The scourge of drug, alcohol and gambling addiction leaves its corrupting mark on many aspects of Vancouver society, contributing to much greater health care costs, crime impact, policing, judicial and prison costs, broken families, welfare costs and innumerable other dire impacts. These costs are all borne by the taxpayer and the impacted businesses and individuals.

      An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Homelessness is a symptom of social failure, a breakdown in many functions within our society. For instance, increasing barriers to education and skill development, of inadequate psychological help provided to those in need, of breakdowns in parenting and the family, of massive transfers of wealth from the poor and middle classes to the ultra rich classes, poor nutrition, government addicted to the money from alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling, of outdated and inefficient community design based on automobiles and single family suburban homes, a media which is prostituted to money and power, and foremost on selfish, acquisitive, individualistic values cultured deliberately by the public relations programs (propaganda) of the multinational corporations (the military / industrial / pharmaceutical / oil complex) who effectively govern our society under the cover of a false democracy.

      Homelessness and drug addiction are a symptom of the above mentioned and other elements of decay within our society, especially at the top, among the political manipulators and the intelligentsia within academia, public service and industry. To address this we will need those who still possess idealism, integrity and free thought, especially the young, to aggressively compete with the existing power abusers to shift the ship of state into a new direction which nurtures community and individual health through benign and enlightened policies and ideas. That is true leadership, which is unfortunately almost extinct today.

      Not Just a Reflection of Van

      Dec 8, 2009 at 3:39pm

      Does anyone have any data on where the homeless population comes from? With our climate, Vancouver receives much of Canada's homeless; the numbers of people on the street is not just a reflection of Vancouver's homeless problem, but all of Canada's. I remember Ralph Klein offering Alberta's homeless one-way bus tickets to Vancouver not so long ago - and in the middle of a booming market.