Vancouver records small drop in street homeless in 2015, but warns help needed for youth

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      The City of Vancouver has recorded a small drop in its number of unsheltered homeless people.

      According to a report received by council today (July 7), there were 488 people living on the streets of Vancouver in 2015. That’s down from 536 in 2014 but up from 273 in 2013.

      The number of homeless people living in shelters remained relatively stable from previous years. In 2013, the city recorded 1,327 sheltered homeless and in 2014, it found 1,267. In 2015, the number of people living in shelters was 1,258.

      The total number of homeless people recorded in 2015 was 1,746, down 57 from last year but still up 146 from the 2013 count.

      Speaking to the Straight the evening before the 2015 data was released, Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang greeted the new numbers with optimism.

      “From my perspective, it is great that the numbers have stabilized and are down a little bit,” he said in a telephone interview. “It means that, clearly, we are building enough housing to get people inside.”

      Jang however cautioned it could be difficult to sustain the level of progress recorded in 2015. He explained it looks like the city is seeing a change in the demographics of its homeless population. Vancouver has succeeded in finding shelter for much of its older homeless people, he explained. But Jang said more younger people are now finding themselves without a home, which he noted is a group that can be more resistant to help.

      “I suspect the makeup of the homeless population is starting to shift quite considerably, to a whole new generation,” he emphasized. “That is something we have to be ready for.”

      City of Vancouver

      The public release of the 2015 homeless count was preceded by a presentation by Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s representative for children and youth. She blamed the provincial government for systemic failures.

      “We’ve had a grotesquely underfunded foster-care system with very little innovation for years,” she said. “When you have a child-welfare system that has been underfunded, that has been buffeted by a lot of change, it affects a generation of kids. So the youth homeless group that you are seeing today—the 19 to 24 year old—are some of the young people that were most-heavily punished by a serious retreat from any youth services in the early 2000s. They are at a point, demographically, where they’ve hit the street and they have nothing.”

      Turpel-Lafond noted there are 700 young people who age out of B.C. foster care every year. She warned many of them do not have the support they need to keep themselves off the street.

      She also criticized the province for failing to implement policy recommendations that could help save young people from falling through cracks in the system. Among other recommendations, Turpel-Lafond said the province should create a collaborative strategy for youth and appoint a youth secretariat.

      “I’m not happy with the [province’s] response,” she said. “I feel that the response has been primarily lip service, and hasn’t had a presence on the ground….If they were going to launch anything, I would have hoped they would have launched it by now.”

      Turpel-Lafond has also repeatedly recommended the province raise the age at which young adults are forced out of foster care beyond 18 years. She noted that 40 percent of Vancouver’s homeless population has spent time as youth in foster care.

      “The province needs to extend foster care to 24,” she said. “I can’t stop saying that….Other provinces have done that for a reason and other provinces have been able to address these issues.”

      Reacting to Turpel-Lafond’s presentation, Mayor Gregor Robertson proposed the City of Vancouver formally call on the provincial government to “extend the option for foster care to the age of 24”. He also suggested the city create a “rapid response capacity” that would allow it to “ensure that action happens” when a child is identified as at-risk.

      The motion passed unanimously.

      In a telephone interview conducted shortly before Turpel-Lafond’s presentation, B.C. Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay said the Crown corporation will be working with the city to craft a continued response to Vancouver’s homeless situation.

      “It’s good to see the street homeless count go down by about 50,” he told the Straight. “I think in the next few weeks, we will be diving through the details with the city, looking for particular trends. And that can help define some of the strategies that we’ll focus on.”

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      Frank Gallagher

      Jul 7, 2015 at 12:11pm

      But but Gregor said it no more homelessness by 2015!!1

      Also could someone please tell me why these young people are unable to work - in any capacity? I understand the basic barriers to entry of the job market exist when you are homeless but at the same time, begging on the streets isn't going to do anything to alleviate your own situation.

      Barry William Teske

      Jul 7, 2015 at 2:00pm

      So are we supposed to feel good that there has been a small drop ( or as anybody with their eyes open will see it, a trickle-down effect from those that have more than a fair share of resources ) as focused on by the rulers of the day?
      As far as I can tell 'charity' and ' 'office of' again is the usual just short of a human solution our rulers are selling.
      Once the 'charities' and 'office of' take their cut what exactly is left for those in need? Oh right excuse my rudeness.
      Must be the homeless persons fault as the rest of society is busy enjoying the 'mandated by your loving rulers' climate change...
      I smell smokescreens again.

      What's the Math?

      Jul 7, 2015 at 2:08pm

      A 3.3% decrease. Only 96.7% or 1746 people left to go for Vision Vancouver to meet it's promise of eliminating (street) homelessness by 2015. Glad to see Kerry Jang is "optimistic."

      Get real Kerry

      Jul 8, 2015 at 8:11am

      Kerry Jang,
      You've helped to provide housing for 57 homeless. How many vacation homes for international billionaires have you helped to provide? 1000? 10000?
      Stop patting yourself on the back.


      Jul 8, 2015 at 12:35pm

      I can't help but think about a girl I see sitting on the sidewalk on Granville for several months now. Her sign talks about how she is in need and how she is looking for work. Yet she has just sat in the same spot for several months now. She has two dogs, smokes cigarettes, and sometimes has a cup of starbucks or some other designer coffee in her hands. How can she afford to feed the dogs? How can she afford the cigarettes and coffee? Any money she spends on those things is money she could use to pay for housing and food. Is it really too much to ask people to consider their priorities??????? Meantime around the corner there are at least three places with help wanted signs in their windows. When I suggested to her that she might find a job if she got up and walked around the corner, instead of telling me thanks for trying to help, she went on a cursing tirade. This is a prime example of someone who wants everything without exerting any effort. This is why the truly needy in this town can't make progress - because liberals want to just give to anyone who asks without bothering to distinguish the needy from the greedy. Of course, taxpayers need accountability for how tax dollars are spent. People who can work but CHOOSE not to should not be on the government dole!!