Rising homeless called a 'frustrating setback': Vancouver Mayor

Homeless - Bigstock
Homeless photo - Bigstock

The 2014 homelessness numbers are out. It's a setback for Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson's "end homeless" goal, something he calls "a frustrating setback" in this Vision email to Vancouver Observer, forwarded below:

Today the 2014 Homeless Count numbers were released. I wanted to share them with you directly.

In 2008 when we took office, Vancouver had a record 811 people sleeping outside. According to a 24-hour count in March of this year, Vancouver had 538 people sleeping outside at night. While that's an improvement from six years ago, it's an increase compared to last year.

It's a frustrating setback. But I'm more committed than ever to making sure no one has to sleep outside at night.

I never said it would be easy, but I firmly believe that we need to set big, bold goals and work towards them.

Since taking office, Vision has opened new winter shelters, new interim housing, new permanent housing. Our partnership with BC Housing has resulted in hundreds of people moving beyond homelessness and into safe, stable homes - almost 500 since 2009, according to City Housing staff.

I’m proud of that. It shows our system of shelters, interim housing and permanent housing is working.

There’s no mystery as to why this year’s homeless numbers went up. We had a perfect storm of reduced shelter beds, senior governments closing interim housing, and delayed construction of new housing.

This isn’t about blame. It’s about taking a hard look at what is different this year compared to last. And what I see is that our investments in shelters and housing have worked - that when we open new units, homelessness goes down.

That’s why as frustrated as I am with the results, I’m more hopeful than ever that we can end street homelessness in Vancouver. With 600 new housing units set to open by the end of this year, it’s within our grasp.

Now’s not the time to back down. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together. Whether it’s a winter shelter in Yaletown, interim housing at the city-purchased Ramada on East Hastings, or new supportive housing at Dunbar and 16th, these projects are making a real difference in people’s lives.

Let’s keep moving forward.

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