Homeless count findings called ‘massive failure’ for Vancouver mayor
Published Wednesday, April 23, 2014 7:33PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 23, 2014 8:07PM PDT
The latest snapshot of homelessness in Vancouver doesn’t bode well for Mayor Gregor Robertson’s promise to shelter everyone in the city by 2015.
This year's Metro Vancouver homeless count, conducted March 12 by thousands of volunteers, tallied 538 street homeless in Vancouver, according to preliminary findings released Wednesday. That's an increase of 384 people over the last regional count in 2011.
The city's overall homeless population, including those sleeping in shelters or couch-surfing, increased from 1,581 to 1,798.
In response, Robertson issued a statement calling the findings a “frustrating setback.”
“With fewer shelter beds, a delay in opening several hundred new supportive housing units this year, and the loss of decent [single room occupancy] rooms at welfare rates, more people were left outside on the street,” Robertson said.
The mayor added that 600 more social housing units are set to open this year, and he's hopeful they’ll help turn things around by winter.
The new figures are still giving fresh ammunition to Robertson’s critics, who are calling his 2008 campaign promise to end homelessness a pipe dream.
Non-Partisan Association councillor George Affleck described the mayor’s pledge as “cavalier.”
“It was irresponsible,” Affleck said. “The problem is much bigger and deeper than just simply building housing and making promises you can’t keep.”
“This is a massive failure under Vision Vancouver and the mayor of this city. They’ve disappointed everyone.”
The survey counted 1,813 homeless across Metro Vancovuer, a slight dip from the 1,892 counted in 2011. It also found a troubling trend across the region of rising homelessness among seniors and youths.
Vancouver, which invested $60 million into housing in 2013 alone, has tracked homelessness with its own annual counts as well. The number of unsheltered homeless recorded has varied widely year after year, spiking or plummeting by hundreds of people.
The lowest number recorded was in 2011, when just 154 street homeless were counted. That number nearly doubled to 306 in 2012, then fell to 273 in 2013.
When Vision Vancouver was elected in 2008, street homelessness was recorded at 811 people.
To read all the preliminary findings of the 2014 Metro Vancouver homeless count, click here.