Annual homeless count wraps up in Vancouver
About 500 volunteers have spent the night conducting the annual homeless count in Vancouver.
The count began on Wednesday and took place over 24 hours. Both homeless people living in shelters and on the street were counted.
Data on age, gender, income and health concerns was also collected.
The Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, was on hand for the count.
He says it’s important to collect accurate data about who is living on the streets, how long they have been out and whether they have any means of support.
“We know there are a lot of people sleeping outside, not only in Vancouver, but right across the country,” said Robertson, calling it a national problem.
Calum Scott, Director of Youth Services of Greater Vancouver, says they are seeing a growing trend in youth homelessness in particular.
“That’s what’s most troubling for me,” said Scott. “Dealing with youth homelessness is very different from dealing with adult homelessness. We have a very short supply of youth specific housing and shelters. Speaking with youth, they are choosing to sleep on the street as opposed to going into the cold-weather shelters because it’s just not safe enough for them.”
At last count, there were 400 homeless youth in Vancouver, ranging in age from 13 to 25 years old.
But Scott says, in reality, more than 700 youth are living on the street, couch-surfing or living in precarious situations.
Robertson says the city will keep the pressure on both provincial and federal governments to find viable solutions.
“We hope to see some dollars dedicated to homelessness and affordable housing in the federal budget in a couple of weeks,” Robbertson added.
He says the provincial government has been a partner in building more social housing in recent years, but there is no long-term commitment to solve homelessness.
The results of the homeless count will take a few months to analyze and should be made public in the spring.
Adding to the controversy this year, two homeless men from Saskatchewan were given one-way bus tickets to B.C., paid for by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services. A report in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix states two young First Nations men were each given one-way bus tickets from North Battleford to Vancouver and Victoria.
Robertson says it was incredibly frustrating to see these two people being put on the bus and shipped to B.C.
“It is despicable that this kind of approach with homeless people is happening,” he said. “We don’t solve homelessness with bus tickets. We need to do that with housing.”
-With files from Amy Judd and the Canadian Press
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