From my inquiries, a similar trend can be seen with the Rental Construction Financing initiative. 13 of the 28 projects that have been approved since the program began until January 2020 were from Ontario, representing nearly 73% of the dollar amount of the loans. When the NHS was first announced, I was of the view that we need to have a more ambitious target than your government’s goal to reduce absolute homelessness by 50% over ten years, but I now wonder that with the current uptake of these programs that perhaps your government would not be able to even meet that inadequate target.
As I have indicated to you before, in my riding of Vancouver East alone, 2,223 residents have been identified in the 2019 Homeless Count as homeless, with 614 people living on the streets and 1,609 people living in emergency shelters, detox centres, safe houses and hospitals, with no fixed address. These numbers are in no way acceptable, yet the count is considered conservative as many experiencing hidden homelessness were not identified.
I have also brought to your attention that 39 per cent of those experiencing homelessness are of Indigenous ancestry, though Indigenous people only make up two per cent of Vancouver’s population. The City of Vancouver has one of the highest per capita rates of homelessness among Canadian municipalities, higher than Toronto, Calgary, and other major metropolitan areas which are also struggling with their own homelessness and housing crises.
In light of our dire housing situation, the extremely low uptake on the program across the country, in particular in the case of British Columbia, is indicative that the problem does not meet or address Canada’s core housing needs and crisis. Your government's current strategy is both utterly inadequate and ineffective for British Columbia. The homelessness crisis will only escalate. If your government claims to take the housing and homelessness crisis in Canada seriously, every effort must be made to be a true partner with non-profit housing providers, municipalities, provinces and territories. The status quo is not good enough. Bold action is required, and your government’s strategy for B.C. must immediately change.
To address our housing crisis, the Province of British Columbia has already begun acting. The province has secured hotel spaces in both Vancouver and Victoria to house those living in tents at three city parks. The BC government has indicated its intent to continue securing additional hotels/motel rooms for the homeless population as interim measures. They have also committed to providing a range of supportive housing measures appropriate to the needs of the individual. Working in collaboration with non-profits and the health authority, a variety of protocols have been established, including protocols to support residents and staff. These include but are not limited to health support for people struggling with addiction issues, food security, the provision of personal protective equipment and increased cleaning services.
While these actions are highly needed and in the right direction, we know that there are still many more who remain homeless in the streets of our communities. Soon after the homeless campers in Oppenheimer Park were relocated and housed, another homeless encampment was formed at a Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (Port Authority) parking lot near CRAB Park, with more than 180 people estimated to be living there. When an injunction order was issued against the homeless campers, the Province advised that the Port Authority did not connect with them about efforts to help properly house the homeless before the encampment was cleared. Almost immediately another encampment was established at nearby Strathcona Park.