A new report is suggesting Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis is driving people into homelessness.
According to the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) and University of Victoria researchers, unaffordability is driving people onto the streets, creating backlogs in shelters, and preventing others from getting services like getting recovery from addiction.
The study’s findings were mirrored at the Downtown Eastside’s UGM on Tuesday night. Their shelter has 72 beds for homeless people and last night, they had to turn away 36 people in need.
“I know for our outreach workers who have to do that, it is probably the most difficult part of their job and they’ll walk away from the end of their shift with a heavy heart,” UGM’s Jeremy Hunka said.
Along with the report, the UGM released a video on social media showing the harsh realities of what they call the “new homeless reality” in Metro Vancouver.
“This report shows unaffordability is tipping the scales on homelessness like never before,” Hunka said. “It is both pushing people into homelessness and preventing others from exiting homelessness. It’s a double-edged sword.”
One of the report’s findings included Vancouver vacancy rates for bachelor suites for less than $750 a month went from 1.3 per cent in 2014 to one per cent in 2015. Also noteworthy is that basic social assistance has stayed unchanged in nine years and yet, between 2010 and 2015, the average rental price of bachelor units in the city increased by 16 per cent.
Hunka said one young homeless man, Dom, is staying at the UGM while going to school at the Art Institute of Vancouver for video game design.
“I’ve been looking online and everything is over $700 and even finding a roommate is difficult as well,” Dom said.
The report also showed that while there are more than 40,000 permanent subsidized housing units in Vancouver and new units have been added each year, more than 10,000 households still are on the B.C. Housing Registry, waiting for suitable housing.
When looking at the demographics, the study showed the percentage of women in Metro Vancouver shelters went from 28 to 32 per cent over the past five years and the number of senior applicants on the province’s housing registry went up to 38 per cent.
WATCH: A new study suggests Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis is driving people into homelessness. As Grace Ke reports, according to University of Victoria researchers, this is compounding the problems for those facing other challenges such as drug addiction.
While efforts are being made to address affordability, UVIC researcher Dr. Bernie Pauly said more still needs to be done.
“The question is not whether we are doing something but whether we are doing enough,” Pauly said.
“When we look at the current numbers of people who are homeless, the answer is no. Sadly, this makes the job of moving off the streets difficult.”
The scarcity for decent housing means organizations like the UGM need to work harder to help fewer people.
Hunka says people using their shelters, who would usually be ready to leave the UGM, are forced to stay longer as they search for housing. The backlog then prevents them from taking in others.
“As a result, we’ve found housing for 36 per cent fewer people this year over last while shelter turnaways have increased 25 per cent,” Hunka said.
“Numbers are going in the wrong direction and affordability is a major contributor.”