The city of Vancouver has announced its temporary winter shelters for 2015-2016, and the program is expanding this year.
For the first year, a winter shelter will operate on East 1st avenue, near Commercial Drive.
Four shelters will be in operation, with a total of 170 spaces. That’s up from three shelters with 120 spaces last year.
Vancouver’s chief housing officer Mukhtar Latif says $1.5 million in funding is coming from the province, with a further $800,000 from the city.
Two shelters on Cordova street are being operated by the Salvation Army. The other pair, one on Pacific and one on East 1st Avenue are being operated by the Rain City Housing and Support Society.
The Pacific street location operated last winter. Latif says the 1st Ave. location was chosen because the Commercial Drive area has such a high population of homeless youth.
“We need to find accommodation across the city, and address needs in different areas,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone in Vancouver has somewhere safe to stay.”
But the location is also in a far more residential area than many previous winter shelters.
Even so, Latif says so far community reaction has been positive. “Residents recognize the need to house people in these cold months.”
That hasn’t always been the case. Last year, downtown residents reacted strongly to the prospect new transitional housing for the homeless in their neighbourhood.
In this case, the city has planned a public meeting for December 2nd at the WISE hall to provide information on the new shelter.
Homeless population plateaus
The need for expanded shelter spaces comes at an awkward time, with the Mayor having pledged to eradicate street homelessness by 2015.
But in this year’s homeless count, staff identified 1,746 homeless people in the city, 488 of them unsheltered. That’s a minor reduction from 2014, but still higher than 2013.
But the city says it is making strides in finding longer term solutions for the city’s homeless.
Latif says says the city has been working with the province, and has brought more than 600 new housing spaces online in the last year, including 157 spaces at the converted Quality Inn and 100 at Bosman Hotels downtown.