Local Homelessness

In a country such as Canada, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, it is intolerable that people are homeless in our very own community. The HIV infection rate in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is the highest rate in the western world. There are about 200 homeless people in the Tri Cities suburbs located in Greater Vancouver. Out of the downtown east side population of 12,000 people, 8,000 are below the poverty line. Any other community in Canada who has 67% of their population below the poverty line would receive immediate attention! Why have we chosen to ignore this problem and drive by the downtown east side, doors locked, as we make our way to Vancouver? For decades politicians have failed to address this problem, and it’s time for us to investigate the underlying reasons behind homelessness, and put a stop for it once and for all!

Homelessness is unacceptable, and I would like to explore the causes of this problem, and the factors which continue to sustain its existence in our own city. Let’s eliminate homelessness in our own backyard, and make this a key issue as we discuss social problems in Vancouver.

In this blog, I will focus on homelessness in Metro Vancouver, with a detailed focus on the DTES and the Tri Cities. The reason for focusing on these two areas is:

1. There have been many detailed reports and studies which have been done on the DTES and these results, and the ideas and strategies to fight homelessness in this area may provide insight for other homeless populations too. Information is costly, and I believe that it is worthwhile to take advantage of the large amounts of research on the DTES.

2. The Tri Cities is the region with the greatest increase in its homeless population, experiencing a 140% increase in the number of homeless people from 2005 to 2008. I have also worked on the homeless problem in the Tri Cities before, and so would like to explore the problem here further.


2 responses

21 05 2009

Outrage is always a good place to start! A quick response – I am not sure you can argue that “we” have chosen to ignore this problem – any survey of the DTES, for example, shows a considerable number of outside agencies involved in providing a whole range of social services (see recent Globe and Mail feature article on activity in the DTES) and you could find that people are keen to help but don’t know how. You place the responsibility on politicians to act but they tend to reflect the opinions of the voters…even if they had a real desire to act where do you think they should start to tackle issues that seem so intractable such as addiction and mental illness? It seems that responsibility for these issues is shifting to the municipal level in Canada – you might explore how local councils are responding to these issues. Definitely worth exploring City plans to eliminate homelessness – such as Calgary and Toronto.

2 06 2009

Hi Graham,

I agree with you when you mention that many people are keen to help, but don’t know how. Or perhaps see ways of helping, but don’t see it as solving the problem so it is easy for them to get demotivated.

I do believe that politicians have a responsibility to act. I agree that they reflect the opinions of voters, so perhaps the problem is that the majority of voters do not actually want homelessness to be the main issue to be tackled. Considering our last provincial election, I would say that the Liberals won on a platform focused on strong economic growth. When I e-mailed both candidates in my riding about the homelessness problem, both said that they were committed to solving it, but it was clear that the NDP candidate knew what was happening with regards to shelters and initiatives in my community while the Liberal candidate simply said it was important. So what do we do when the majority of voters want to focus on other objectives first, with homelessness as a secondary goal? I believe that politicians still have a responsibility to marginalized and disadvantaged groups in society and need to make decisions which reflect the needs of society as a whole, not just the interests of the people who vote them in (considering how low the voting rate in B.C. is!) Politicians are the leaders of our community and are responsible to every human being that lives in them.

Thank for the tip – As I look into solutions for homelessness, I’ll definitely consider what other cities such as Calgary and Toronto are doing about it.

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