Homelessness: We can’t afford to ignore it

Faces of Homelessness – Compilation from Metro Vancouver on Vimeo.

On February 27, 2017 Metro Vancouver’s Regional Homelessness Task Force released its position paper: Addressing Homelessness in the Metro Vancouver Region with new research findings and recommendations. The report finds a number of disturbing trends that show a homelessness crisis is affecting all corners of the Lower Mainland.

Homelessness in MV

Homelessness has increased steadily in Metro Vancouver over the past 15 years, driven by gaps in social services for people with chronic health issues, mental illness or addictions, and exacerbated by the meteoric rise in rents, house prices and the cost of living. At the same time, shelters are estimated to be at 97 per cent capacity.

The Task Force estimates about 4,000 people are in immediate need of housing, while the number of unsheltered homeless has jumped 26 per cent annually since 2011. Approximately five additional people will become homeless within the region each week, while more than 60,000 households in Metro Vancouver spend more than half their income on shelter, making them vulnerable to homelessness, according to the Task Force findings.

homelessness-55000With more than 70 homeless camps erected in Vancouver, Langley, Maple Ridge, North Vancouver, Surrey, Delta, Burnaby and Coquitlam, homelessness is truly a region-wide crisis. The crisis poses significant costs to local municipalities, which spend extraordinary resources to deal with homelessness. Simply responding to the demands of a homeless person costs taxpayers $55,000 annually, compared with $37,000 per person to house them.

5-a-week

The Task Force, struck last November, recommends the provincial and federal governments work with local municipalities and community agencies to implement an immediate action plan by the end of 2017. The action plan, which includes 12 key priorities, is based on three distinct goals: preventing people from becoming homeless, serving those who are homeless, and finding pathways out of homelessness.

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