Vancouver business association calls for city-supported homeless camp

Jul 9 2019, 9:25 pm

Charles Gauthier doesn’t mince words when speaking about Vancouver’s homelessness issue.

“We have a homelessness crisis,” he said. “We have witnessed a 2% year-over-year increase in homelessness in the city of Vancouver alone.”

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Gauthier is the president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA), which has now called for a city-supported homeless camp, complete with services such as showers and washrooms.

He noted, however, that this would not be a permanent facility.

“It’s not intended as permanent housing, but a pathway to permanent housing,” he told Daily Hive.

The ultimate goal, he furthered, “is to get homeless people out from the cold, off the streets… into these tented structures and to transition them to permanent housing.”

Asked where such a facility could potentially exist, Gauthier said it could be erected on vacant land, “similar to where temporary modular housing has been built.”

Responding to those who may be skeptical of the idea, Gauthier pointed to other large cities that have enacted similar measures.

“Cities like San Diego have erected large tents that are equipped with bunk beds, washrooms, showers, cooking facilities, and wrap-around services like social work and counselling are readily available,” he said.

The result?

“San Diego has experienced a year-over-year decrease of 6% in homelessness.”

Gauthier’s comments come on the heels of recent news that an annual summer festival that is normally held in a downtown park will be moved this year, due to the number of homeless people camping in the park.

The 43rd annual Powell Street Festival will return to the city’s Downtown Eastside this year, but there will be a change in the venue.

In the past, the neighbourhood’s Oppenheimer Park has been the site of the two-day, August event.

However, this year, the festival is being moved to the nearby streets around the park, so as not to “displace” the number of people have erected tents and are currently living in the park.

Homeless numbers continue to rise

Last month, the City of Vancouver’s annual homeless count found that homelessness is at its highest level in Vancouver since the city started the annual count back in 2002.

In total, 2,223 people were identified as experiencing homelessness. Of these, 72% (1,609), were sheltered and 28% (614) were unsheltered.

As well, 27% reported being homeless for less than six months showing and 81% of survey respondents were already living in Vancouver when they became homeless.

The survey also found that 39% of those surveyed identified as Indigenous, and “Indigenous people continue to be vastly overrepresented in the homelessness count in Vancouver compared to the overall population,” the city said.

“While this year’s Homeless Count results show that the bold actions being taken by the city and its partners might be beginning to turn the tide on the growth of homelessness in Vancouver, there are still more than 2,000 people without a home in our city,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “This is unacceptable.”

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