Street homeless count doubles despite Vancouver mayor’s promises

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      The number of homeless sleeping on Vancouver’s streets has increased by 384 people in the last three years, according to preliminary results released today from the latest regional homeless count.

      The Metro Vancouver count, conducted during a 24-hour period on March 12, identified a total of 2,770 homeless people across the region, including 957 who were sleeping outside, couch surfing, or using homelessness services.

      The largest chunk of the unsheltered homeless population is in the city of Vancouver, where the amount rose by 249 percent since the last regional count in 2011, to 538 people this year. A local count conducted in 2013 showed 273 unsheltered homeless.

      Mayor Gregor Robertson called the increase “very frustrating news” and cited factors including delays in new supportive housing units as contributing to the rising number of homeless.

      Robertson maintained that Vancouver can still end street homelessness by 2015, a pledge he made when first elected in 2008, but stated the city will need more support from seniors levels of government. That includes a “bigger commitment to low-barrier shelters” for next winter, reinstated funding for the At Home/Chez Soi project, and more funding for social housing, he said.

      “If there’s a concerted effort and we see some additional investment from the B.C. government, federal government—that’s where we need more help,” he stated.

      “We’ve come a long way, but there’s another leap that needs to be made, and as a city we’ll be right there.”

      This year’s count also showed an increase in the number of aboriginal homeless people in Metro Vancouver, from 394 in 2011 to 582 this year. Aboriginal people represent 31 percent of the total homeless population, compared to 27 percent in 2011.

      Patrick Stewart, the chair of the Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee, said he was very disappointed to see the numbers increase.

      “I’m no politician, but in a country as rich as Canada, there’s no need to have anyone living on the street,” he said. “To me this points to a failure of senior levels of government to adequately ensure citizens have a decent standard of living.”

      The number of homeless youth surveyed as part of the regional count increased by three percent to 410 people, and the amount of homeless seniors in Metro Vancouver rose by 38 percent.

      The tally of people sleeping in shelters in the region decreased by four percent since the last count, from 1,892 in 2011 to 1,813 this year. Most of the sheltered homeless were found in Vancouver, where 1,260 people were counted.

      The only other sub-region in Metro Vancouver that showed a rise in the number of unsheltered homeless is the North Shore, which saw a nine percent increase. The count results indicate that the amount of street homeless decreased by 39 percent in Surrey, 35 percent in Richmond, and 62 percent in Delta and White Rock.

      Deb Bryant, the chair of the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness, noted that the study under-represents the actual number of homeless people in the region, but that it gives a “snapshot” of the population.

      “That is on the one hand good news compared to years before, but it’s frustrating to see how entrenched this problem is,” she said in an interview.

      The Carnegie Community Action Project described the high number of homeless people identified in the Vancouver count as disappointing, but not surprising.

      “The City has not taken action to protect low-income housing, the province has failed to build the social housing we desperately need and the federal government has all but divested from low-income housing,” organizer King-mong Chan claimed in a news release.

      A more detailed analysis of the 2014 Metro Vancouver count will be released in July, including information such as health issues faced by homeless people and barriers to ending homelessness.




      Apr 23, 2014 at 3:45pm

      “We’ve come a long way, but there’s another leap that needs to be made, and as a city we’ll be right there.”

      Hard to know if the mayor is naive, an idiot, or just being a lame-ass politician. We haven't come a long way - the numbers are pretty much where they have been for decades.

      In every society, since the beginning of time, there has always been poor and homeless people. That will never change, so let's stop pretending otherwise.

      Rob Yewell

      Apr 23, 2014 at 4:05pm

      Big Surprise!
      Vancouver offers the best weather,cheapest drugs, easiest pan-handling and a sympathetic city hall offering free housing for all.

      I visited your city on the Easter Weekend. I used to love walking all the downtown streets. Now I can hardly walk a half block without encountering a begger. Recently I spent a month in downtown London and walked about ten miles a day. Not even once was I asked for money.

      Maybe Mayor Robertson & Council should spend a few days in London and ask a few questions.

      Rob Yewell


      Apr 23, 2014 at 4:20pm

      Not good enough, the harper government will not rest till everyone makes minimum wage or less, and if that leads to hundreds of thousands living on the street someday, they will invent some solution to sweep them under the rug (perhaps homelessness will be made a crime so they can use those new toughened laws and prisons they are fixated on)

      Nicholas Ellan

      Apr 23, 2014 at 4:56pm

      This casts considerable doubt as to whether the 2012 and 2013 counts, done by City of Vancouver as a means of self-evaluation, were at all accurate. Given that this is the only count in three years done by an arms' length organization, it is the only number I am willing to trust.


      Apr 23, 2014 at 8:22pm

      I think it's always been an undercount. Props to all the volunteers and the collective effort to make it more accurate this year. Lotsa work ahead.

      Rick in Richmond

      Apr 23, 2014 at 10:21pm

      The City of Vancouver is extremely attractive to the homeless. Per capita, Vancouver has far more homeless than Surrey, Burnaby, Abbotsford, or Richmond. Why? Were they all born in Vancouver?

      Vancouver has built far, far more than its fair share of public housing. The DTES alone has more than 5000 units of public housing. No other city even comes close.

      Why should one city bear the burden, and the cost, of homelessness for the entire Metro area? How much public housing does Burnaby build? None, in comparison. They are delighted that Vancouver tries to house the homeless of Burnaby. And Port Moody. And Langley. And Delta.

      The City of Vancouver cannot solve the housing problem of Metro Vancouver. And Metro cannot solve the housing problem of Canada.

      The DTES is attractive for many homeless because of the open air drug market down there, and because self-destructive behaviour is tolerated in a way that would never be accepted in any other jurisdiction.

      "If you build it, they will come" is part of the lesson here. As long as the City, and the DTES in particular, is required to bear the burden of a Metro issue, it will never be solved.

      Public housing belongs in every municipality in Metro Vancouver, and not just one.


      Apr 24, 2014 at 1:04am

      probably doesn't help that Canada's homeless flock to the Hawaii of Canada with it's pleasant homeless friendly weather and the hospitality of the city.


      Apr 24, 2014 at 1:06am

      how many are born Vancouverites?

      Scott B

      Apr 24, 2014 at 9:16am

      I recall in 1999 when the then NDP were handing out welfare cheques to anyone who asked the homeless rate skyrocketed as well until they pulled the plug. Build it and they will come. Well they are here and you can build as much social housing as you like and it will never be enough because you will start getting every homeless person in Canada making their way to Vancouver for a free ride. Bleeding hearts will bleed the city dry of funds as taxpayers pick up the tab. Gregor and his cronies need to be replaced with a more balanced administration.


      Apr 24, 2014 at 9:21am

      Housing prices in Vancouver are ridiculous. I just had a new refrigerator delivered and was offered 1 million for the empty box.