Vancouver councillors want city to declare a "homelessness emergency"

Feb 24 2020, 6:14 pm

As Vancouver continues to grapple with the issue of housing affordability, two city councillors want to see the City declare a “Homelessness Emergency” and are bringing forward a motion this week to push council to do just that.

In addition to the declaration of a homelessness emergency, the motion – which is being brought forward by Councillors Pete Fry and Jean Swanson – seeks to have council ” urge the federal and provincial governments as well as regional and local governments along with other partners, to make a Homelessness Emergency plan to build or find dignified, affordable housing for at least 80 percent of counted homeless people within three years.”

The motion also seeks to have city staff incorporate this target into the existing Housing and Homelessness Strategy and be a key focus of the Housing and Homelessness Strategy ongoing, and that the Homelessness Emergency plan “includes raising social assistance shelter rates” so people can afford to pay rent.

“Welfare and disability shelter rates as determined by the province are too low at $375 per month to even cover operating costs for an SRO room,” the motion states. “Skyrocketing prices for housing and land over the past 10 years, spurred by low-interest rates and financial speculation, have turned Vancouver into one of the most 2 expensive housing markets in the world, far out of reach of most local incomes.”

The motion also notes that in 2019, 2,223 people were counted as homeless across Vancouver.

“Homelessness robs people of their security, dignity, rights and lives — homeless people have about half the life expectancy as housed people,” the motion reads. “Numerous academic studies have established that providing secure housing is a more cost-effective solution to homelessness than maintaining temporary shelters and incurring additional policing, mental health service, and health care costs.”