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Vancouver's 2019 Homeless Count sees slight growth

Last Updated Jun 12, 2019 at 7:57 pm PDT

Summary

City says there's been a two per cent increase in the number of homeless people in Vancouver

2019 Homeless Count shows 2,223 people don't have a home in Vancouver

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A new survey suggests the number of people who are experiencing homelessness in Vancouver has gone up slightly this year, compared to the last.

New numbers released by the city show 2,223 people don’t have a home – that includes those living on the streets or couch surfing.

This represents a two per cent increase over the City of Vancouver’s 2018 Homeless Count, which found there were 2,181 people who identified as homeless.

“While this year’s Homeless Count results show that the bold actions being taken by the City and its partners might be beginning to turn the tide on the growth of homelessness in Vancouver, there are still more than 2,000 people without a home in our city. This is unacceptable,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

“We’ve seen the Province come to the table with unprecedented investments, but the Federal Government’s pledge to cut homelessness in half hasn’t yet come with money on the ground and that’s the real missing piece.”

The city’s survey shows the majority of the homeless population lived in Vancouver before they became homeless. It also notes Indigenous people make up two per cent of Vancouver’s population, but 39 per cent of the city’s homeless population.

With 81 per cent reporting they are from Vancouver, the Union Gospel Mission’s Jeremy Hunka rejects the common claims that this city draws more people experiencing homelessness here from other parts of the country.

“It’s not a choice. They don’t want to be there. It’s difficult. It’s painful and it’s deadly in many cases,” he says.

Hunka and Stewart are also expressing hope that the pressure on Vancouver’s shelter system will ease as other cities like Burnaby and New Westminster build more.

According to the City of Vancouver, homelessness is still at its highest level since it began its Homeless Count in 2002.

“This year’s Count results are an indication that the housing affordability crisis and income inequality continue to have the most significant impact on those with the lowest incomes,” the city says.

Mayor Stewart says a new tool to keep at-risk renters from becoming homeless has just been approved by city council, but he admits that depends on support from the provincial government.

“We need them to pre-assess whether or not people should be evicted or not,” he says. “Not after they’re evicted, whether it was illegal or not.”

Changes include giving renters twice as much compensation if they’re forced to leave by landlords looking to renovate an older apartment building, and Stewart is hoping this will help keep some from experiencing homelessness.

The count noted a slight decrease in the number of unsheltered homeless people, which the city attributes to “doing a better job of creating space for people to come indoors.”

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