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Coronavirus: B.C. housing minister says ‘help is on the way’ for renters, homeless

Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. housing minister says ‘help is on the way’ for renters, homeless
B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson announced Saturday that relief and additional supports are coming for renters, low-income residents and the homeless who are struggling to cope through the coronavirus pandemic.

B.C.’s ministers of housing and poverty reduction say relief and additional supports are coming for renters, low-income residents and the homeless who are struggling to cope through the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do know, and are very well aware that the next rent payment is coming up soon, and I want to reassure those who are afraid of losing their homes because they can’t pay their rent that help is on the way,” Housing Minister Selina Robinson told reporters on Saturday.

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READ MORE: B.C. government vows to protect renters facing eviction due to coronavirus

But renters will have to wait until early next week to see if B.C. introduces a ban on evictions, which has been repeatedly requested as tenants lose their jobs due to provincial restrictions on social gatherings that have shuttered many businesses.

Details on a financial relief package for renters, low-income residents and those on disability will also be announced when the legislature meets for a one-day sitting on Monday.

BC Housing has already announced a temporary moratorium on eviction of tenants in subsidized and affordable housing, but the ban only applies to public housing they control.

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Robinson stressed that she and her colleagues in both her ministry and the NDP caucus are doing everything they can to ensure people are not evicted during the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We don’t want anyone evicted during this very difficult time,” she said.

Growing push to ban evictions during coronavirus pandemic
Growing push to ban evictions during coronavirus pandemic

No details have been released on how landlords will be supported.

She and Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson also discussed supports being implemented and considered for the province’s homeless population, particularly those living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

At issue is the need to introduce social distancing measures among groups living together in poverty, particularly within shelters and in homeless camps.

READ MORE: BC Housing bans evictions as province works to help renters, homeowners amid coronavirus

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The ministers and BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay said they were working to keep shelters open where possible. Many of those shelters close for the year around this time.

The province will be supporting shelter operators, supportive housing buildings and single room occupancy (SRO) hotels with funding to cover COVID-19-related costs, including cleaning and supplies.

Ramsay said cleaning supplies and meals were being distributed to shelters that need them or can’t afford them.

READ MORE: Growing concern for B.C.’s homeless as coronavirus cases continue to mount

The province is also looking at using community centres, temporary modular housing and other spaces to house people in order to keep them socially distanced, and to isolate potential cases if they arise.

Ramsay admitted shelters in Vancouver are currently at capacity, while 70 to 80 people are still living in the homeless encampment in Oppenheimer Park. The Portland Hotel Society has been working with people in the park since earlier this year to find them appropriate shelters.