On June 15, the city presented its 2016 Homeless Count, which found that 1,847 people were homeless in the City, 1308 in shelters and 539 on the street. This is the highest number since the counts began in 2005. This year, we also saw the biggest surge in new homeless people since the begininng of the count. A staggering 61% of the repondents said they had been homeless less than a year.
Vancouver now has the highest rate of homelessness out of all Canadian cities. The homeless count found that Indigenous people are still disproportionately represented on the street, making up almost 40% of the homeless population. This is an increase from 2015. The report also found that homeless youth are more likely to be LGTBQ2+, Indigenous, or have health issues than homeless adults.
Joanne Shaw from CCAP brought an excellent spotlight during council meeting on June 15th to wheelchair accessibility, explaining how “there is a serious lack of wheelchair accessible units and there are not enough accessible being built in new social housing.“
One of the City’s Senior Planners, Celine Mauboules, explained how welfare rates have been stagnant while housing and living costs have continued to rise. She said what the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) has been saying for years, that SRO’s are charging more and more in rent while less and less rooms are available at welfare rents.
Carnegie Outreach reported how it has seen a huge increase in the number of people it serves. As rents in SRO hotels have been raised above what people on welfare can afford, the need for social housing has become even more extreme, but so has the waitlists. There are now 2,300 people on the waitlist for BC supportive housing.
CCAP volounteer Harold Lavender pointed out in a speech to council that “the city’s policy in terms of social housing is kind of a deception to the public as very few of the units in so called social housing are targeted to people making $375”. Concluding, “If you want to solve the homeless problem, you just have to build a lot more units at welfare and shelter rates.”
By Andrés Oswill