British Columbia

Hopes that new housing will cause drop in Vancouver's homeless count

Volunteers across Vancouver are preparing for the annual homeless count. One councillor hopes new housing will lessen the number of people without a home.

'We're moving in the right direction in building these units,' Coun. Christine Boyle says

Volunteers in Vancouver will count the number of homeless people living in the city this week. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Volunteers and officials across Vancouver are preparing for the annual homeless count, with at least one councillor hopeful that new temporary housing will have reduced the number. 

Homeless counts take place every year over a 24-hour period in Vancouver. This year, the count is scheduled to take place March 12 and 13. More than 400 volunteers are trained to help out. 

"We ask people their age, gender, indigenous identity, ethnic identity, why people are sleeping outside, what are the main reasons for not having a home," said Celine Mauboules, executive director of the Homelessness Services Association, the organization that leads the count. 

Last year, the count found 2,181 residents were facing homelessness, including 659 people living on the street and 1,522 with no fixed address in emergency services like shelters, detox centres, safe houses and hospitals. 

Since then, the province has partnered with the city to build about 600 temporary modular homes, of which the city says about 500 are occupied.

The site of Vancouver's very first modular homes was at 220 Terminal Avenue. The city intends has built 600 units as a response to the growing number of homeless. (City of Vancouver)

Coun. Christine Boyle says she hopes the new housing units will have helped out the homeless and led to a decrease in their numbers. 

"We know the high cost of living is pushing people into homelessness, so I'm not optimistic that we'll see a 600-person reduction. But I do think we're moving in the right direction in building these units," Boyle said.

Mauboules warned that although the units may be helpful, homelessness is a complex issue with no simple solution. 

"I definitely think we need more housing but there are other feeders into homelessness — kids aging out of foster care, women fleeing abusive situations and ending up in transition houses," she said.

There were about 2,000 people living without a home in Vancouver in 2018. (Christopher Katsarov/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Boyle agrees, especially given that the units don't suit everyone's needs. The modular units are for single people, she points out, and there is still a need for family housing, particularly for single parents. 

"Hopefully one of our next steps is to build types of units that families can move into as well," Boyle said. 

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge

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