Funding for Vancouver homeless shelter extended as four other facilities close

The imminent closure of three Vancouver shelters drew criticism from some housing advocates today (April 25), just as the B.C. government announced a two-month reprieve for a downtown shelter that was slated to close at the end of the week.

Provincial funding for five temporary shelters was scheduled to end this month. One shelter on West 4th Ave closed down last week, and three facilities will shut their doors by Friday.

The 40-bed New Fountain HEAT shelter on Cordova Street, which opened in December 2008, has been granted a two-month funding extension.

Mark Townsend, the executive director of the Portland Hotel Society, which operates the facility, said while he’s glad New Fountain funding was extended, he predicted the need for shelter isn’t likely to change in two months.

“There’s new housing coming online, but is it new housing that’s suitable for the people that are in need of shelters, and obviously it’s not,” said Townsend.

“If you’ve got 100 units but you’ve got 500 human beings after them, the people that we’re dealing with tend not to get invited to stay.”

According to a news release issued today by B.C. Housing, three new buildings will be complete with 309 units within the next two months, including a 108-unit building on Abbott Street for women and children. The 80-unit Station Street development that opened recently is fully occupied, while an increase of 100 additional shelter beds and supportive housing units at the Union Gospel Mission facility was announced last week. Another two sites are under construction and will be completed by the end of the year.

Townsend said many New Fountain shelter users have specific supportive housing needs. He suggested a continuum of housing options are needed to include this group, such as providing a mental health worker that can check in once a day on tenants.

“It doesn’t have to be something really fancy, but that works really well, and it gives people a new chance to start at life,” said Townsend. “In a way all this stuff’s not rocket science, it just gets lost in the shuffle.”

Homeless advocates want to see funding renewed for the five emergency shelters that were scheduled to close this month.

Tristan Markle, a housing activist with Vancouver Action, criticized the yearly closure of emergency shelters.

“This happened last year and it happened two years ago, and the precarious nature of the funding is really not fair,” he said.

VanAct is part of a coalition of advocacy groups calling for the five facilities to be kept open. They estimate the closures will impact about 200 shelter residents.

The coalition will be holding a press conference outside the Cardero Shelter Tuesday. Markle said the group will be calling on the provincial government to stabilize funding for all the shelters, and to bring on enough housing to meet the current need.

Markle said residents of the temporary shelters include seniors, day labourers and people on disability.

Mark Smith, the executive director of RainCity Housing, the organization that operates the Cardero, Broadway/Fraser and Howe Street shelters, said there are still about 80 people without safe housing options between the three temporary facilities.

Smith noted the options being offered by the province to many shelters users have consisted of SRO units in the Downtown Eastside, which he said a lot of them have turned down.

“If what they’re being offered is a room in an SRO in the Downtown Eastside, they’d rather make do on the streets,” said Smith.

“We’re working with them and we’re trying to do the best we can, but there’ll probably be quite a few left that won’t have housing.”

Smith said there are a “real range” of users at the temporary shelters.

“There are a wide range of people that have experienced various challenges in their life and they are at this time homeless,” he said.

Smith said that while he would like to see the temporary shelters kept open, he would want the communities where they are located to be consulted first.

He noted that while shelters are an expensive solution, they still serve a vital service.

According to B.C. Housing, the cost to operate temporary shelters is about twice as much as permanent supportive housing.

“Shelters are Band-Aids, they’re expensive and they’re not what people need at the end of the day, but the truth of the matter also is that there isn’t enough housing for people in the community and probably never will be,” said Smith.

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Apr 25, 2011 at 8:46pm

All these options are commendable only if they are prepaired to continue support. That support is funded by me and other tax payers. Do you see what I'm getting at?
How many people are collecting a paycheck and what salery are the getting?
I want to see the percentages of profit for the group aid against the cash value from GVMT devided to the numbers of people helped.
I'm trying to see if giving them the money wouldn't be cheaper in the long run.
There are people that have gain from others misery and worth everything they get. Or so they say.


Apr 26, 2011 at 2:47am

Wait - Mayor Banana Smoothie promised he'd eliminate homelessness. I heard it with my own ears. Otherwise, liberals are effing LIARS.

Kat Norris

Apr 26, 2011 at 7:50am

Media Conference Against the Closures
Cardero Shelter
747 Cardero Street (at Alberni Street)
Tuesday, April 26, 2011 @ 10:00 am

Our homeless brothers and sisters need your support and voices!

Sunday night 7 people from CCAP, DNC, Vanact and Council of Senior Citizens visited 3 shelters that are closing: Cardero. Howe St., and Fraser.

These shelters are slowly emptying out. There are 20-30 people remaining in each. Shelter residents have no options once they close. Many can’t rent apartments because of stigma from landlords. No social housing is available. Many will fail and be back on the street if they go back to an infested, unsafe SRO in areas where they used to use drugs or have been “red zoned” by police.

Marta from the Howe shelter said, “I’m going to stay right here in the alley. We are here because we don’t want to be alone. We got nobody. Everyone else has a family, we don’t. This is our family.” Marta said she doesn’t buy the excuse that governments don’t have money. She explained that each person in her shelter is eligible for $375 a month for rent on welfare.

If you multiply this by 40 people per shelter that means BC Housing already has $15,000 a month to spend to keep her shelter open.

Chase from the Cardero Shelter. “I’ll go crazy and just end up back on the street. If this shelter closes, I guess I’ll head to the Super Value parking lot. That’s where we came from before they opened this place up. I can’t go to an SRO.”

Deanna, Cardero Shelter “If I lose this place, these regular meals and my guaranteed spot here, then I’ll go back to selling drugs to survive,” .

Don, Fraser shelter who is about 65 years old said: “Two women near IGA on Broadway got me to come here about a month ago. I’ve been outside a long time. I guess if they close this, I’ll be in the doorways, back laneways and behind restaurants.” Kerry from Howe, “If this closes I’ll find an abandoned house. I have my Coleman stove. I hope nobody will notice me. If this shuts down, the government will spend more money on corrections. People here will be panhandling, living in the allies. You would think they would rather we stay in the shelter.”

Please help us stop these people from losing their ground, their networks of support and these makeshift homes. It’s election time! Call on your members of parliament to keep their promises. Call on governments to fund these shelters, which is the best alternative for many homeless, who need the supports they offer. Many suffer from various illnesses that make a shelter their best option.

VIGIL: Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. at the Cardero Shelter. How much we can accomplish will depend on what support is received from the community, from everyday people. Numbers are so important in a situation like this. Numbers make politicians and legislators stand up and listen to the people’s voice