Vancouver mayor credits homeless shelters for drop in trespassing, panhandling

Vancouver’s mayor and a business advocacy group have credited emergency homeless shelters for reducing incidents of panhandling and trespassing downtown.

According to new statistics, incidents of panhandling dropped in December to 129 from an average of 312 per month for September to November.

The figures also show trespassing incidents dropped to 20 in December from 170 on average for the previous three months.

The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association statistics were highlighted today (January 6) in a news release from Mayor Gregor Robertson’s office.

“Our emergency homeless shelters don’t just help people on the street, they also provide benefits to the city as a whole,” Robertson says in the release.

Charles Gauthier, the business association’s executive director, says the shelters are working.

“Our members have seen a significant change on our streets, ranging from less people sleeping outside, to a reduction in panhandling and trespassing, since the shelters opened,” Gauthier says in the release.

Doug King, a Pivot Legal Society housing campaigner, welcomed the support for the shelters.

“It’s encouraging to see that they’re coming to the same conclusion that we’ve been saying for years, which is that we need more shelter space, we need more housing,” King told the Straight today by phone.

“And yeah, it is common sense that if you put together a strategy that puts that in place there’s going to be positive effects for society,” he added.

But King questioned how much credit the shelters should receive for the drop in panhandling and trespassing.

“We have a feeling it’s not just as simple as that,” he said. “It’s not just homeless shelters. It’s a piece of the puzzle.”

King suggested the annual Hope In Shadows charity could have provided an alternative income source in December to people who typically panhandle.

Supported by Pivot, the program gives low-income and homeless people a chance to profit by selling calendars that feature photography of the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

Four temporary emergency winter shelters opened in late November and early December in Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano, Downtown South, and the West End.

They provide around 160 shelter spaces and are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until April.

The B.C. government is providing $1.5 million for operation of the shelters while the city is putting $500,000 toward work on the buildings.

More than 1,200 additional shelter spaces are available in Vancouver through the city’s Homeless Emergency Action Team program, the provincially funded Emergency Shelter Program, and the Extreme Weather Response Program.

Pivot is embroiled in a case before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and city over the Downtown Ambassadors Program. A decision in the case is expected in spring.




Jan 6, 2011 at 4:42pm

Bullshit!! Where exactly has panhandling gone down? I live right next to the DTES and from my vantage point, it's gone up. There are so many beggars and drugged-out zombies walking around the streets here. Walk down Abbott, next to the Tinseltown Mall, and you'll see at least 4-5 beggars hanging outside of McDonalds, Starbucks, 7-11 and the liquor store, among others. It's impossible to walk even one block without having 2-3 beggars approaching you, some quite aggressive.

Temporary shelters that are only available during the coldest months of Winter is NOT the solution. Once again, this Mayor and Council are attempting to prove somehow they care for the homeless when they've done less than any previous Council for housing and enforcement.


Jan 6, 2011 at 7:40pm

The limousine liberals and champagne socialists solved every problem with a few bike paths and temporary emergency shelters. Amazing. The best place on earth - just ignore all the evidence.


Jan 6, 2011 at 9:05pm

Ziggles you obviously haven't lived here long. Panhandling is obviously way down. Five years ago you'd get asked for change constantly, Granville street had more panhandlers too, usually 4 or 5 right at the doors of the skytrain and another 20 on that block alone.
I've lived here all my 40 years, I can remember when Fedco was a major department store in the DTES, and I have to say our city streets and the DTES have never never looked so good since when before crack came on the scene.
Ziggles must have settled here recently cause he doesn't seem well informed.

19 9Rating: +10

maybe they moved to Point Grey

Jan 6, 2011 at 10:00pm

Perhaps the Mayor can try the Safeway on W. 10th Avenue at Sasamat Street. No shortage of panhandlers befriending you at the doors there or the 7-11 on Alma Street.

james green

Jan 7, 2011 at 12:03am

Okay folks let's get it right. Robertson is campaigning for the next election and putting out spin on all of his shortcoming to give us an impression he is doing a good job.
Homelessness has increased since he was elected and opening shelters is not solving homelessness as shelters are a band aid solution.
He has not built one piece of housing for the homeless.
Spending the millions he as spent on bike lanes, the Vanoc building purchase, and so much more could have gotten numerous people off the streets. I will say it again Gregor Robertson has not built one unit of housing for the homeless. And be clear social housing is not housing for the homeless.
If we are going to support this guy next election we need him to come clean and tell us his real record on all issues including his poor record on homes and services for the homeless.
Come on Gregor stop the cheap spin.


Jan 7, 2011 at 11:11am

This mayor is full of s***t. I have lived in Kits for 25 years and in the last two years there has been an incraese in panhandling ( usually about 5 or 6 guys along west 4th between arbutus and vine) and there are now people sleeping on the street on west 4th and when its cold they sleep in the Vancity or Royal Bank where the bank machines are located. I am so disgusted with this Mayor. He is a pathetic ken doll empty suit who does not have the balls to address the media ( send out Ballem) when three people are killed in a fire and exploits the poverty stricken to advance his politcal agenda.


Jan 7, 2011 at 1:00pm

Sorry, vancouver4life, your assumptions about me are completely wrong.

james green

Jan 7, 2011 at 3:15pm

The mayor needs to visit all the communities in this city. Many panhandlers have merely fanned out and are now found in areas of the city other that down town. For example visit your own community Gregor being the Cambie Village area.
It is getting boring having a mayor who thinks in metaphors, hyperbole, stories and who prefers to hear and give information through slogans, proverbs, icons, fiction, riddles and myths. Having Gregor for our mayor is like living in Oz with his council being variations on the tin man, the lion and the scarecrow.
Having him for major would be funny if it was not so sad.

get a grip

Jan 7, 2011 at 3:48pm

no national strategies to end homelessness, this is the issue here.

Taxpayers R Us

Jan 7, 2011 at 5:19pm

Wow The anti-democratic mayor could not face the public in person on his dishonesty, he had to issue a press release. Well done Pinocchio!

I do wonder how big an impact on homelessness the $20Million that were spent on bike lanes and renovating his office would have had. $20M opens a lot of shelter space..