Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has put forward a motion recommending that city council allocate up to $30 million in emergency funding to buy or lease housing to help homeless residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a statement from the city on Tuesday, a report from city staff shows that the lease or purchase of housing units in vacant apartment buildings, commercial hotels, single-room occupancy hotels, and other buildings were the only “viable options” to address the growing needs of communities.
Stewart’s motion calls for “wraparound services” to support those experiencing homelessness, and would see him continue to pursue senior government funding.
The city’s estimated 750 unsheltered residents are particularly vulnerable during the pandemic, which intersects with the province’s overdose crisis, the statement said.
Neighbourhoods such as Strathcona, the West End, Yaletown and Mount Pleasant are experiencing “higher-than-usual levels of street homelessness and are demanding solutions in the form of services and housing options for their vulnerable neighbours.”
Council approved a motion on Sept. 14 directing city staff to explore several options from permanent housing to managed encampments on vacant land.
In an Oct. 2 memo to the mayor and council, staff identified eight city-owned sites that could potentially support sanctioned temporary encampments with physically distanced tents and services.
A special council meeting is scheduled for Thursday.
— With files from Kristen Robinson and The Canadian Press