VANCOUVER- The Province's strategy to reduce homelessness and connect people with more housing options is having a positive impact, including a reduction in Vancouver to 145 street homeless from 815 - an 82-per-cent decline - according to results from the Metro Vancouver 2011 Homeless Count released today.
The preliminary results show that access to shelter spaces and new supportive housing operated by the Province and community partners is making a difference for people in communities across the Lower Mainland.
According to the count conducted on March 16, 2011, the total number of homeless has remained stable at 2,623 in 2011 compared to 2,660 in 2008. This is the first time since the count began in 2002 that there has been a slight decrease in homelessness, and is a significant improvement over the 2008 survey that saw an approximate 20 per cent increase in the homeless population.
Individuals are counted in two groups: "Unsheltered or Street Homeless" who are people who sleep on the street and "Sheltered Homeless" who are people counted in emergency shelters. The report indicates that the number of street homeless has decreased by more than half - from 1,574 in 2008 to approximately 731 today. As well, the number of people who are sheltered increased by 74 per cent overall since 2008 and 91 per cent in the City of Vancouver. This reflects an increase in provincially-funded shelter spaces in Metro Vancouver.
While provincial funding for emergency shelter spaces that provide temporary accommodation has progressively increased over the last five years, the Province's primary focus has been to create housing that helps people move off the streets permanently.
To make this happen, the Province partnered with local governments and community groups to build supportive housing; purchased and renovated buildings to protect the supply of affordable housing stock and increased funding to the Homeless Outreach Program to better help people connect with housing and supports. Since 2008, outreach workers have helped approximately 3,550 people in Metro Vancouver connect with housing and shelter services.
Data collected through the homeless count helps inform programs and services and helps to inform resource allocations moving forward.
Rich Coleman, Minister Responsible for Housing:
'The 2011 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count shows we have made great progress to address homelessness since our housing strategy was introduced in 2006. Today, we continue to work with our partners to break the cycle of homelessness, by getting people off the street, in supportive housing, and back into healthier lifestyles."
Wayne Wright, mayor of New Westminster
"In New Westminster, we're seeing the results of the Province's effort to address the issue of homelessness in our community. The additional resources from the Province and non-profit community have made a huge difference and we'll continue our efforts until homelessness is eradicated."
* The Province invests approximately $231 million annually in Metro Vancouver to provide affordable housing and reduce homelessness.
* Approximately 1,740 new supportive housing units have opened in Metro Vancouver between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2011. This includes 851 Single Room Occupancy hotel units that were purchased, renovated and made operational by the Province in Metro Vancouver between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2011.
* The Province will invest more than $300 million in a partnership with the City of Vancouver and Streetohome to build more than 1,500 new supportive housing units in the city for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. By the end of 2011, approximately 570 of the new units will be open. Another 1,000 will open over the next two years.
* Across the Metro Vancouver region there are 964 year-round shelter beds receiving annual provincial funding of approximately $30 million - up from 786 permanent year-round shelter spaces in 2008.
* The Province provides approximately $2.9 million in annual funding for homeless outreach programs in Metro Vancouver so that community agencies can connect homeless with shelters, housing and support services.
* Funding for the Homeless Outreach Program has increased by $400,000 for Metro Vancouver since 2008.
* Since 2008, workers at provincially funded outreach programs across Metro Vancouver have helped more than 3,500 homeless people connect with permanent housing options.
Connect with the Province of B.C. at www.gov.bc.ca/connect