Column: A skid row response to mayoral homeless promises: Bring not words, but deeds and truth
A skid row response to mayoral homeless promises
by Jim Hargrove
The Mayor’s office has released a document entitled “Homeless Policy Implementation Strategy for the City of Vancouver,” which was delivered to City council yesterday, February 2, 2013, and is being used by council in making a decision on whether it will approve the housing strategy.
When Councillors first saw the document, they were struck by how little it did to address the homelessness problem in the city of Vancouver. They were also struck by two things about this document: it did not address how homelessness is defined; and it does not address the core problems facing the city, and which should be the most critical priority for the entire city.
Let’s look at what the document says about poverty and poverty reduction and how it attempts to address issues like homelessness.
We think the document does not acknowledge that homelessness is a problem in our city, and is a problem which is exacerbated by poverty. The document claims that the city will be able to move away from “poverty” to address homelessness. However, it does not define what it is to be a person who is poor.
We think “poverty” should be used to refer to those who are defined as being in poverty by one’s circumstances, instead of the various government programs and assistance programs that help people move out of poverty to reduce the risk and extent of their homelessness.
The document says that the City will be using “social determinants of health” to guide policy in housing homelessness. The document also states that housing need, which is defined to be a person who is homeless on a waitlist waiting for social housing, will be reduced by 50% – not 100%. But if we look at the number of people who suffer homelessness in the entire city and the total number of people who use the various social assistance programs that help people with homelessness, we find that there is a tremendous disparity between the two.
For example, according to Census 2011, there were 3,741 single homeless persons in Vancouver in 2010. But in 2014, 696 persons were homeless. Thus, there were only 17 fewer