The annual Vancouver homeless count began last night.
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson says there are hundreds of homeless people on city streets.
As for when we will get this years numbers.
“We will know what this years count number is in the Spring.”
Robertson was not happy about two homeless men from Saskatchewan being sent to BC.
“Incredibly frustrating to see two people put on a bus in Saskatchewan and shipped out to Vancouver particularly the individual who did not have any contacts here on the West coast. I think it is despicable that, that kind of approach with homeless people is happening.”
Robertson also disagrees with the Premier saying BC is in good financial shape and can afford to help homeless people from other jurisdictions.
“We are not doing really well. We know there are thousands of people homeless here in BC. We know there are hundreds of people homeless on the streets of Vancouver waking up on the pavement cold and wet and that is totally unacceptable. if the BC economy and the Vancouver economy are thriving we should collectively be able to invest in enough housing to make sure everyone is looked after.”
He says the province needs to work with the city on housing to address homelessness.
Robertson says the issue of homelessness is a challenging one that may never be solved entirely, despite the fact he pledged to end homelessness by last year.
“It is difficult to get right to zero. Some people, very few, may choose to live outside but certainly we can make a lot more progress on it with a focused effort in getting more housing built. We had hundreds of housing built for people who are homeless this past year but we are just barely keeping up.”
Even though the homeless count won’t deliver final numbers for a month or two a disturbing trend is already emerging.
Calum Scott the Youth Director with Family Services of Greater Vancouver says an increasing number of people aged 13 to 25 are living on Vancouver’s streets.
“In the Metro Vancouver region we have a very very limited supply of youth specific housing and shelters. In speaking with youth the biggest trend that we have seen is that youth are choosing to sleep on the street as opposed to going into the cold weather shelters being provided by the province because they are just not safe enough for them.”
Scott says there is a lack of shelters for youth and some of the shelters in the city are run like refugee camps.
“A lot of our youth report it being dirty and disgusting and quite frankly having to sleep next to some dangerous people that are in different states due to their usage of drugs and alcohol. They are just worried for their own personal safety.”
He says there needs to be a strict standard for shelters to address safety.
“I absolutely think so I think shelters like other social services should be licenced and inspected and I beleive to some extent that happens but clearly based on what youth are telling me that system is failing because they are not being inspected closely enough or they are not being held to a high enough standard.”
Scott says affordability is also a big issue with young people who grew up in Vancouver being forced East to find places they can afford to live.