Mayor Kennedy Stewart is calling on Premier John Horgan to appoint a “homelessness czar” to further help Vancouver’s most vulnerable residents.
Stewart says that the new minister would “oversee and coordinate provision and services” for those experiencing homelessness.
Shane Simpson, the long-standing MLA for Vancouver-Hastings, served as the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction since 2017. However, he chose not to seek re-election during the 2020 provincial election.
“Last spring, Premier Horgan appointed Minister Shane Simpson to coordinate help for Vancouver’s most vulnerable neighbours, especially in Oppenheimer Park and the Downtown Eastside,” Stewart said in an emailed statement. “Simpson did an incredible job.”
Simpson was also appointed to manage a cross-ministry team and to overlook BC’s response to its two public health emergencies last spring.
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The working group was also tasked with identifying, assessing, and addressing the immediate challenges faced by those living on the streets, encampments, shelters, SROs, and social and supportive housing.
Stewart also points out that federal and municipal funds secured for rapid housing projects need “signed provincial agreements” by the end of November.
“We have more than $81 million ready to help house our most vulnerable neighbours,” he explains.
“All we need now is a new minister to oversee the province’s contribution and help us get services into place to tackle the dual health crises of COVID-19 and overdoses.”
Last month, Vancouver City Council passed a $30 million COVID-19 housing action plan to support unsheltered residents in all areas of the city.
The City of Vancouver also received funding from the federal government, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the launch of the Rapid Housing Initiative — a $1 billion investment with the goal of creating permanent, affordable housing units.