Vancouver housing advocates say they’re planning a campaign over the next month to press for year-round funding of temporary homeless shelters in the city.
Vancouver East MP Libby Davies and Vancouver city councillor Ellen Woodsworth joined a crowd of advocates in front of the closed Fraser Street temporary shelter today (May 6).
The facility at Broadway and Fraser streets was the last of four temporary shelters to shut its doors last month. According to B.C. Housing, the April closure was part of the agreement made when the facilities were opened for the winter. Funding for a fifth shelter slated for closure in the Downtown Eastside was renewed for two months.
However, advocates argue there’s a year-round need for the shelters, and they plan to continue calling for funding of the facilities.
“In the next couple of weeks and the next month, there’s going to be a campaign which will involve petitions, direct actions and a whole number of things to try to keep this shelter and the other shelters open, and to really make the case that there’s not enough housing,” Vancouver Action organizer Nathan Crompton said today (May 6).
Davies supported the call for provincial year-round funding of the temporary shelter.
“We’re in this terrible situation where people have to rely on emergency shelters that shouldn’t be long-term because there isn’t long-term housing,” she said.
“So you’ve got to have the long-term housing that comes on board, but in the meantime we can’t give up on these shelters. I find it very cruel just to put people out because it meets some policy or some directive.”
Rich Coleman, the B.C. minister responsible for housing, told reporters April 29 that all the temporary shelter tenants had been offered housing. He said 85 of the temporary shelter residents were housed in B.C. Housing units, 50 were placed in subsidized housing, and 20 refused housing offers.
"The whole idea of the shelter space is to transition people from shelter to permanent housing," he said. "We have seasonal shelters, we have extreme weather shelters and we have permanent shelters that we run, and the objective is actually not to have to have them all."
Sean Spear, the associate director of RainCity Housing, said when shelters like the facility at Broadway and Fraser are opened, they are typically full within 24 hours.
Spear said the smaller size, the community model and the location of the Fraser Street shelter were partly what made it fill up so quickly.
“There are no other shelters in a 20-block radius”¦and there are definitely homeless folks in and around here,” he said.
Spear said if funding was secured to re-open the shelter, RainCity would first consult the surrounding neighbourhood. The organization operated three temporary homeless shelters around the city that closed last week.
“If we were to get funding to continue this, we would want to talk to the community again and have them on board, but I believe that they would be,” he said. “This is a great community and they’re very supportive as it is.”
Spear said while the winter response program is “crucial”, he’d prefer to see the facilities stay open.
“It’s not only the roof and the food, it’s also the work and that first point of contact that we have with folks, and we can refer people into withdrawal management, refer people into other housing, make that first point of contact with people who haven’t been indoors,” he said. “It’s important to have that relationship ongoing.”