The Metro Vancouver homeless count gets underway Tuesday, where volunteers try to get a snapshot of those who are down and out in the region.
A recent tally from Metro Vancouver’s homelessness task force gauged around 4,000 homeless people in the region, with 70 homeless camps.
Union Gospel Mission’s Jeremy Hunka says low vacancy rates and rising affordable rents are driving up homelessness every year.
“It’s really hard for people to hold on right now, and that’s what we’ve seen at UGM as being a key contributor to homelessness… The estimates, the data from that report, really shocking, really high numbers, really concerning to us. I mean, when you’re talking possibly up to four thousand homeless people in Metro Vancouver, the town I grew up in had less than four thousand people in it, living.”
Hunka says the homeless count will demonstrate the need again for a poverty reduction strategy as well as a national housing strategy.
“We are seeing people pushed to the brink of homelessness who never thought they’d be in that position.”
Hunka says homelessness isn’t an issue for one specific level of government, saying all three levels need to come together if the problem is going to get better.
He says he won’t be surprised if the count shows homelessness increased in great numbers; that’ll be revealed in April.
Maple Ridge’s mayor says B.C. has a part to play in eradicating homelessness.
“In our city, honestly, the province has not delivered on it’s commitments to offer housing to our most vulnerable.”
Nicole Read says the city has repeatedly come at BC Housing with solutions to put homeless campers into housing, only to be denied by their two MLAs, Doug Bing and Marc Dalton.
“How can the provincial government, through one side of their mouth, say ‘this is what we need to do,’ and at the other side of their mouth have two MLAs come forward and be like ‘nope, the public doesn’t like supportive housing for people who are addicted, so therefore we’re not delivering it?'”
Read says 23 people who were shuffled from a homeless camp back in 2015 still have not found housing.
“It’s just a really sad situation, and an example of how the provincial government can really fail at connecting people on the streets to housing.”
She believes Bing and Dalton bent to the public’s will of denying supportive housing because of the provincial election, calling it frustrating.
Read also took exception to recent comments from the Minister responsible for housing that local governments were to blame.
“I heard Rich Coleman in Question Period the other day suggest the mayor wasn’t co-operating. I don’t think you’ll find anything out there to suggest the mayor or the city hasn’t co-operated.”