Housing crunch puts seniors at risk of homelessness
The number of senior citizens in B.C. is expected to double over the next few decades, but experts say affordable homes are already scarce, putting many more elderly people at risk of becoming homeless in the future.
Seniors Services Society housing counsellor Hina Lal says that some seniors are spending years on wait lists for places to live.
"I speak with at least 150 or 200 clients every month and out of those clients I will get, on an average, 30 seniors who will be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless every month," Lal told CTV News.
The society has just two outreach workers to cover all of the greater Vancouver area.
"We would love to help every single senior, but unfortunately, we can only do what we can," Lal said.
Senior David, who receives a disability pension, has been living in temporary housing since November.
"On my income, it's been an obstacle course," he said of the search for a permanent place to live.
Brian is in an even worse position -- he's been homeless for the past two months. He sometimes takes shelter in hospital waiting rooms and at the airport.
"My income would have been used up on your basic market housing, which would be very, very cheap," he said.
Brian says that as a "regular person" he doesn't qualify for many of the emergency housing programs available in the province.
"There are lots of programs, lots of beautiful homes and so on, but they're basically earmarked for specific reasons and usually it's for people with problems: alcohol, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, people coming out of the prison system and so on," he said.
The need for more housing is also felt by Norman Jones, who operates a low-income building in Vancouver for the Society for Christian Care of the Elderly.
"The demographics tell us that it's definitely increasing. The people moving in to this accommodation start at the age of 55 and some of them stay there for life," Jones said.
He plans to apply for an expansion later this month.
BC Housing says that as of the end of September, more than 2,000 senior households were on a wait list for housing.
Housing Minister Rich Coleman says that a little more than 1,000 new low-income rental units are being built around B.C., and the province also subsidizes about 48,000 units of seniors' housing.
"The challenge is, when you hear people are waiting, they're often times on some other form of assistance," he said.
"A lot of people make the mistake of thinking you have to always build it. In this case, we'll subsidize people in their communities where they live."
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Maria Weisgarber