VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A Downtown Eastside (DTES) housing group is calling on BC to more than double the size of welfare cheques to tackle homelessness and help low and no income earners pay for the cost of living.
Following a survey of 68 hotels for 3,170 rooms, the Carnegie Community Action Project’s (CCAP) report on rent in the DTES found the average monthly cost for a room is $548. This is compared to the $610 someone on regular welfare and $906 individuals with a disability receive.
“Welfare has been frozen for 10 years,” CCAP organizer Jean Swanson says. “You can’t eat and pay the rent on $610. You can’t even pay the rent.”
The income and disability assistance rates were last raised in 2007. CCAP wants the provincial government to match the Market Basket Measure, what the federal government says is needed, per month, for a “modest, basic standard of living,” which is $1,500 a month. They also want those on disability to receive $1,800 a month.
The group would also like the province to boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“Back in the year 2000 when Campbell was the premier, he reduced taxes on the richest one per cent by $41,000 a year,” Swanson says. “All the government has to do is basically bump up taxes on the rich to what they were and we could even out a lot of the dire poverty and homelessness that’s happening.”
The City of Vancouver counted 972 homeless in the DTES 2016. The Ministry of Social Services and Social Innovation estimates 9,000 to 10,000 people on in the area are on welfare or disability and to provide each individual with $1,500 would cost $180 million per year.
Among a slew of recommendations for each level of government, CCAP wants Ottawa to enact a national housing program, and for all governments to create more affordable housing and programs in the DTES, prevent gentrification, and control rents.