VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver’s chief of police says a record high homeless count will continue to challenge frontline officers charged with keeping the city safe.
The City of Vancouver’s 2019 Homeless Count found 2,223 people in the city are experiencing homelessness. The number is the highest since the count began in 2002.
Vancouver Police Department Chief Adam Palmer says emergency calls involving someone with mental health issues continue to rise and that too many people struggling with mental health and addiction still have no shelter in this city.
“It’s very unfortunate. There’s so many people in our city that are suffering from a number of social issues. You know, when you look at homelessness, mental health issues, drug addiction — a lot of them are cross-pollinated and many people have all three of those going on at the same time,” he says.
According to the City of Vancouver, 44 per cent of respondents to a survey included with the homeless count reported struggling with a mental health issue and 67 per cent said they have an addiction.
“It’s sad. Everybody wants to see people with a home and a place to live and feel safe, but many people in our community don’t. I know there’s a lot of good work happening to address that, but it’s challenging,” Palmer adds.
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The count revealed that eight of ten people counted as homeless in Vancouver are from the city, but Palmer says a number of the city’s homeless are people with outstanding warrants in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.
“We’re seeing a lot of people migrating west that sometimes bring with them social issues, criminality issues and it’s challenging for society to deal with and challenging for police to deal with,” he explains.
According to Palmer, police in other provinces aren’t seeing many people from Vancouver heading east.
“Many people that we deal with in our day-to-day transactions, they’re people that have moved here from Alberta, from Ontario, from Quebec, from the Prairies. And interestingly enough, when I talk to my counterparts back east in other cities back there, they don’t see a lot of people from Vancouver that have relocated to their city,” he says.
The VPD has a dedicated homelessness liaison officer who Palmer says is one of the busiest members on the force.