Homeless people forgotten in provincial election despite record high homeless count

The 2017 Metro Vancouver homelessness count was just released. The count found a steep increase in homelessness across Metro Vancouver with 828 more people identified as homeless in 2017 compared to 2014, representing a 30% increase in homelessness and the highest number to date. In the City of Vancouver, there are now over 2,100 people who are homeless, an increase of almost 300 since last year. Aboriginal homeless has also skyrocketed, with 34% of all homeless people identifying as Aboriginal compared to 31% in 2014.

Despite this unprecedented homelessness crisis, none of the provincial parties have made any significant commitments to building social housing, rent control or increased welfare rates. The 2017 provincial election as it now stands, is a recipe for doubling the homeless population by 2020 – regardless of who wins. In the current trajectory, ever-growing homelessness will become a permanent, normalized feature of life in BC.

The Vancouver count was up from 1803 in 2014 to 2138 this year, verifying what is evident on the streets. “How can people who get welfare of $610 a month, with only $375 for shelter, afford to pay rent in Vancouver?” asked Lenee Son, coordinator with CCAP.  “Anyone who loses a job, gets out of jail or foster care, simply can’t afford rent on welfare and that is a provincial responsibility.”

“The province acts as though it’s building lots of social housing, but compared to the 1980s when an average of 767 units a year were built in Vancouver, the amount they are building now is minuscule,” said Jean Swanson. “With a vacancy rate of about half a percent, there is simply no place for low-income people to move.”

“The last two decades show that the market approaches, trumpeted by all provincial parties to the housing crisis do not work,” said Maria Wallstam, community organizer with CCAP. “We need a drastic change in policy and a commitment to implementing rent control and building 10,000 social housing units a year.”

Neither the NDP, Liberals or the Greens have put forward a plan to end homelessness yet.