All North Shore cities and First Nations create partnership to address homelessness

Jul 28 2022, 7:23 pm

All three municipal governments and both First Nations of the North Shore of Metro Vancouver are partnering together to create a coordinated approach to address homelessness in their communities.

The partnership entails the municipal governments of the District of West Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, and the City of North Vancouver, as well as the Squamish First Nation and the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, which builds on the recommendations of a recent homelessness response report.

“Access to safe, suitable, and affordable housing is a fundamental human right we all share. But too many people are not having this right met,” said Linda Buchanan, mayor of the City of North Vancouver, in a statement.

“The pandemic lifted the veil on gaps in services and housing options that people in our community need. That’s why we came together to pursue solutions. We are moving forward and ensuring that no one is left behind. As a nurse, I look forward to exploring the possibility of a single point of entry service model.”

The “priority actions” for the coordinated approach include establishing a “single point of entry” for individuals to access services and information, creating a “Housing First” model of moving individuals experiencing homelessness into housing, and creating more emergency shelters, transition and supportive recovery housing, and permanent and/or affordable housing.

All five entities will also improve their communications and collaboration between each other and partners.

“Housing and homelessness continue to be an issue for Indigenous people, and we continue to see that here on the North Shore,” said Jen Thomas, chief of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation.

“These issues were amplified during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tsleil-Waututh is pleased to come together with the Squamish Nation and other North Shore municipalities to support people experiencing homelessness in our communities. This work is a step in the right direction and we are looking forward to continuing the good work.”

Last year, in a bid to address housing affordability and homelessness in their community, members of the Squamish First Nation approved in 2021 the construction of 400 affordable homes across three reserve locations — Capilano (District of North Vancouver), next to TransLink’s Phibbx Exchange (District of North Vancouver), and Squamish.

The North Shore’s most recent homeless count was performed in 2020, just before the pandemic.

Even before the pandemic’s exacerbated impacts on homelessness, there were over 200 homeless individuals counted on the North Shore, with 75% identifying as male, 25% as Indigenous, 25% over 55 years of age, and 20% under 25 years of age.

Over 10,000 households on the North Shore are deemed to be in “core housing need,” and the food bank serving these communities has seen the number of families accessing their services rise from about 200 in 2019 to over 700 in 2021.

All five municipal and First Nations entities on the North Shore also have a partnership on improving transportation, including their advocacy for a fixed rapid transit link serving their jurisdictions and crossing Burrard Inlet.

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