Big money steps in to fight homelessness in Vancouver
The Vancouver business community is stepping in with an ambitious goal of raising millions of dollars and building supportive housing for the homeless, but will it be enough to make a difference?
Through the Streetohome foundation, business leaders are hoping to raise $26.5 million to build permanent supportive housing in Vancouver. The housing won't just act as shelter, it will also provide a place where the homeless can get help dealing with mental illness and addictions.
Six months in, Streetohome is already more than halfway to its fundraising goal.
Frank Giustra has made a fortune through the investment industry and mining projects around the world. He's worked with the Clinton Foundation to help the poor in developing countries, but now he's targeting an issue closer to home.
"To me, it's an embarrassment that we've had this problem for so long and it hasn't been addressed in a meaningful way," he told CTV News.
Streetohome Chairman John McLernon, founder of realty group Colliers International, says the foundation is about individuals stepping up to solve a problem.
"It's easy enough to say it's somebody else's problem, or the government's job to fix it, or the city's, but it's really a combination of everybody, and the community as a whole should take some responsibility," McLernon said.
Former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt says supportive housing is the key to ending homelessness, and that's why he's signed up as a board member of Streetohome.
"I think there's a real chance that Vancouver could be one of the first cities in North America to abolish homelessness," he said.
That's the promise that helped propel Gregor Robertson into the mayor's seat in 2008, when he pledged to end homelessness by 2015. Since then, the city has created more shelters, helping reduce the number of the people sleeping on the streets by half.
But the number of people looking for a home has increased by 12 per cent since Robertson's election.
The mayor says he still believes that Vancouver will have the capacity to provide shelter for everyone by 2015.
"I think we can end street homelessness so that everyone on the street has an option to get off the street," Robertson said. "The bigger, longer term challenge is to completely eliminate homelessness and make sure that we have the housing so people don't have to be in shelters -- we can close the shelters and the temporary housing that exists right now and everyone has a permanent home."
The first of the city's 14 supportive housing buildings just opened last week.
But critics like NPA Coun. Suzanne Anton say the city could be doing much more.
"Under this mayor and this council there actually has been no new housing created. All of the housing that's being developed now is housing that came out of the work of the last council," she said.
Watch CTV News at Six for a full report from Mi-Jung Lee