Total number of homeless in Vancouver remains steady at 1,600

More people sleeping in shelters and fewer on streets, according to 2013 count

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      The total number of homeless people in Vancouver has remained steady from last year, according to the final details released today (October 8) on the 2013 homeless count.

      The number of people surveyed during the annual count conducted in March was 1,600, compared to a total of 1,602 in 2012. While the amount of homeless people sleeping on the streets has decreased from 306 last year to 273 this year, the number of people staying in shelters has gone up, from 1,296 in 2012 to 1,327 in the latest count.

      Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang said factors contributing to the number of people on the streets and in shelters include the amount of people coming from prisons, hospitals, and the foster-care system who become homeless.

      “By setting the very clear goals we have to try to reduce street homelessness, we’ve actually got conversations going on now with the prison system, for example, so B.C. Housing is now setting aside a certain number of beds to make sure folks have a place to go,” Jang told reporters. “Let’s be clear, if we were not doing what we’re doing, there would be hundreds more people living on the streets.”

      According to staff, about 60 percent of people using the city and B.C. Housing’s winter shelters during the last five years have moved into housing from the facilities.

      “This constitutes almost 500 individuals who have accessed permanent housing directly from our shelter program,” Brenda Prosken, the general manager of community services, told council.

      The 2013 homeless count also showed an unusually high number of women sleeping on the streets this year. According to Prosken, 45 women were found outdoors this year. This number, along with recommendations stemming from the B.C. missing women inquiry, has the city and B.C. Housing looking at providing a women-only shelter this year.

      Other details in this year’s count include a finding that the homeless population is in worse health. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed reported having an addiction, 46 percent said they have a mental illness, 42 percent a medical condition, and 34 percent a physical disability. 

      “We see a growing trend of increasingly poorer health in this already vulnerable population,” assistant director of housing policy Abi Bond told council.

      While there has been a slight decrease in numbers, aboriginal people also continue to be disproportionately represented, comprising 30 percent of the homeless. And homeless people are still present in areas across the city, not just downtown.

      Non-Partisan Association councillor George Affleck argued the average amount of homeless in Vancouver hasn't been reduced over recent years.

      “How we deal with it [homelessness] in Vancouver is currently we’re building as many places as possible, yet…we’re not lowering that number,” Affleck told reporters. “In Vancouver, 300 street homeless, 1,500 overall homeless—that’s the consistent number over the last 10 years, and I don’t see it changing unless we see buy-in from across the province, or potentially nationally.”

      Affleck also questioned staff on why the city conducts its count in March, when the winter shelters are still open, and why a second survey in the summer months isn’t held. Prosken said the city is following a national standard for the annual springtime count.

      The city began conducting annual homeless counts in 2010. That study showed a total of 1,715 homeless people, including 421 on the streets. In 2011, 1,581 homeless people were surveyed, including 154 on the street, and 1,427 in shelters.

      The number of homeless people in 2008 was 1,576, including 811 unsheltered, and the total amount in 2005 was 1,364, according to today’s presentation to council.



      Rick in Richmond

      Oct 8, 2013 at 7:33pm

      The City is to be congratulated for going far beyond its legal obligations. Nothing in the Vancouver Charter obligates them to build public housing. With few resources, they have built a great deal.

      The real issue is location. Over 70% of the DTES is public housing already. This concentration has created a ghetto mentality that does its residents no good.

      All future public housing needs to be built outside of the DTES, far from drug dealers and street violence, far from pimps and Picktons.

      Drug addiction IS a mental illness. Until we break up the concentrations of anti-social behaviour associated with open drug use in the DTES, those thousands of people have little hope of recovery. And they never will. Madness reinforces madness.

      The poor are entitled to feel safe and welcome in every neighbourhood. Confining them to the DTES imprisons them in a permanent cycle of poverty and gutted expectation.

      The ghettos of public housing in major American cities prove it. We don't need to repeat their terrible mistakes.


      Oct 9, 2013 at 9:14am

      An 8-story tower is going up in my neighbourhood, the city and province have got together to provide social housing.

      I say: Yes In My Neighbourhood.

      But it is a bandage to stop some of the bleeding, it is not a solution to the carnage. I would like to see more initiatives to facilitate healthy families. Public health nurses already do valuable work with breastfeeding support and answering questions - I'd like to see even more accessibility to prenatal care and counselling.

      Crippling a person's spirit in early childhood is not much different - argubly worse - than breaking a person's arms and legs. At least arms and legs can be fairly easily healed.

      You can also recover from fetal alcohol, sexual abuse, and severe parental neglect - but it is really really really difficult. I also think it is avoidable and outrageous.

      Waste Land

      Oct 9, 2013 at 11:18am

      I believe perhaps if the $ Millions paid to the now spouse of BC Housing CEO to 'Manage' Buildings in the DTES were reallocated to maintenance and Housing than more homeless could be housed.

      No-tender contracts

      The old Downtown Eastside hotels were bought by BC Housing in 2007, before the Olympics, so the government could move homeless people off the streets into "supportive housing".

      Tenants pay rent for their rooms, usually from social assistance cheques, in the range of $375 a month.

      Multimillion-dollar contracts to manage 13 of the buildings were handed to Abbott's company without going to tender. She said that initially, the province was in a big hurry to find someone willing to take the job.

      "They were a bit desperate," Abbott said. "No one else was willing to do it."

      At that time, Abbott's primary experience was running women's shelters and condo complexes.
      Inspection reports

      The public housing run by Atira has been visited by municipal officials and inspectors for Worksafe BC. Read their reports:

      Worksafe BC inspection
      Worksafe BC property report
      City of Vancouver inspection

      "I think [Atira] was in way over their head when they took on the contract for the housing," ex-employee Brown said.

      What bothers many critics is that two years after Abbott got the contracts to manage the BC Housing facilities, she started dating BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay. The couple married in 2010.

      "One hand is holding the other," Taylor said. "I've gone to BC Housing to make complaints about Atira and I've been told by BC Housing, 'Take your complaint back to Atira.' "

      Brown said, "I don't see how that is possible that it's not a conflict of interest. You mean to tell me they don't talk about business at home?"



      Oct 9, 2013 at 12:03pm

      Gregor promised to eliminate homelessness in vancouver, what a joke, build all the homeless Hiltons you want and it will never happen, Have one close to my home, thanks for all the ambulance and police calls, at least one a day. You make it too easy to be a bum

      Alan Layton

      Oct 10, 2013 at 8:17am

      GR has less than two years to get rid of homelessness. Temporary shelters are not homes, they are temporary shelters. Perhaps he should've promised to get rid of shelterlessness instead. Quite frankly I don't see how it's ever going to be solved since it's a fluid population. You can't prevent homeless people from migrating from other parts of the country or even other parts of Metro Vancouver, such as Burnaby where Mayor Corrigan and the council spend no money at all on homelessness. The best way to combat homelessness in your area is to force the homeless to go elsewhere....such as Vancouver.

      B.C. must start to foster change Homelessness: System does not prepare youth in care for when they become adults

      Oct 26, 2013 at 5:28pm

      Part of the reason the number of homelessness is so high is the outcome of children who were in foster care. When they turn 19 youth are expected to manage on their own and they are no longer in the foster care. I believe that is so sad because no youth deserves that and you would think since the Ministry for children and Family development is supposed be the parent, doesn't that include teaching youth life skills getting them employment ready, teaching them budgeting and survival skills? They fooled us and claimed they are there to protect youth and children really? I don't see how shoving them on the streets of Vancouver is in their best interest or protecting them! I am appealed our youth in B.C. don't deserve this! I believe that in the beginning if the Ministry for children and family development didn't just remove children, followed through their plans of care, and the policy, and stop Harassing their parents and provide services they are supposed to this would not be out come for youth and the public should be outraged this is our youth shame on Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond who gives reports how bad it is instead make them accountable for shoving our youth in the streets! Lisa Arlin