Amid ongoing concerns and criticism about how homeless issues are or aren’t being addressed in Vancouver (particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic), the B.C. government provided updates on forthcoming projects in the city that will provide shelters or housing. Some of these projects, however, won’t be available for immediate use but are still in the proposal stage and will be ready in a few years.
Two temporary shelters
B.C. Housing announced today (February 23) that the province and the City of Vancouver will be opening two new temporary shelters, with a total of 120 beds available.
B.C. Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing David Eby stated in a news release that these shelters are in response to homeless encampment at Strathcona Park.
Although Eby also said that “we need to get people inside into dignified, supportive shelter as quickly as possible to prevent death or serious injury for those trying to stay warm outside this winter”, the forthcoming shelters won’t be available until after spring has begun.
However, he did add that there is more yet to be announced. The city and province are continuing to work together to secure new temporary and permanent supportive housing sites.
In the meantime, the first shelter will be located at 875 Terminal Avenue, and will open in April, while the second, located at 15–27 West Hastings Street, will open at the end of April. Specific dates were not provided.
The Terminal Avenue shelter, owned by the City of Vancouver, will receive a $1.8 million federal grant for renovations.
The West Hastings shelter, co-leased by B.C. Housing and the city, will also undergo renovations.
Each shelter will offer 60 beds and will be operated by nonprofit housing providers yet to be named. Both shelters will provide daily meals, laundry and showers, housing application form assistance, and community and health service referrals.
Indigenous-led housing project
In other recent housing news, the City of Vancouver announced on February 17 that city council approved a rezoning proposal for an Indigenous-led development at 1015 East Hastings Street.
This project—a partnership between B.C. Housing, the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society, and the City of Vancouver—will provide over 80 new shelter beds, 25 supportive homes, 53 market rental homes, and 85 affordable rental homes, plus a social enterprise space.
Once the development permit is approved, the project is expected to start construction later this year.
Other proposed housing projects
On February 11, the provincial government announced that two more permanent supportive housing projects are being proposed by the province, in partnership with the city and the federal government.
One location is at 2086 and 2098 West 7th Avenue and 2091 West 8th Avenue, where a 12-storey building would provide about 140 studio homes.
At a second location at 1406 and 1410 East King Edward, a 12-storey building is proposed to provide approximately 90 studio homes.
These projects would provide daily meals, healthcare services, Indigenous cultural programming, skills building, relationship building, connection to volunteer or employment opportunities, and other support services.
Once approved, these projects, which would provide a total of about 230 homes, are estimated to open in late 2023 or early 2024.
In addition, the provincial government is funding 30 new rental supplements for those who require fewer support services and are able to move from supportive housing into private rental properties. This funding will help to open vacancies in supportive housing units for new shelter occupants.
Currently, all of the 1,000 supportive housing homes opened since 2017 are occupied.
This summer, about 100 temporary supportive homes will be opened and 350 more are being proposed at various locations in the city.
Meanwhile, the City of Vancouver has opened applications for a new single room occupancy hotel, located at 313 Alexander Street in the Downtown Eastside, that will offer housing for trans, gender diverse, and two spirit people.
In other news related to homeless issues in the city, an online petition has been launched calling for the resignation of five out of seven Vancouver park board commissioners who voted against an injunction to remove the previous encampment at Oppenheimer Park.