BC Housing has stopped collecting data on the number of homeless people turned away from emergency shelters, and the NDP housing critic wants to know why.
David Eby discovered through a Freedom of Information request that the government stopped collecting that information a year ago.
“This data is incredibly important,” he said. “There are real world consequences of turning people away. We’ve had some terrible deaths on the streets of Vancouver because they were turned away from shelters.”
BC Housing argues that so-called “turn-away data” does not provide a complete picture of the demand for shelter space.
In a statement provided to Global News, BC Housing indicates a more accurate indication on shelter capacity is to track occupancy rates and nights full, numbers shelters are still required to track.
Eight days into November the shelter capacity at Vancouver’s Union Gospel Mission is clear. The facility has been full every night this month and has already turned away 72 people. The number of people turned away is tracked daily by the organization, which uses the data to plan for the needs of the community it serves.
“We find tracking the number of turn-aways extremely valuable,” said UGM’s Jeremy Hunka. “Tracking the number of turn-aways allowed us to hire full-time case workers. Those case workers have since found homes for more than 250 people.”
According to Eby, though, the numbers haven’t been collected in a year. Many of the shelters just found out as a result of Eby’s FOI request.
“This decision wasn’t made because of weakness of the data, but out of political embarrassment,” said Eby.
The number of turn-aways is alarming. In October 2014, one of the last months the data was collected, there were 1,233 separate incidents just in the Vancouver Coastal Health Region.