Vancouver mayor blames Ottawa for continued growth of homelessness in city

Vancouver mayor blames Ottawa for continued growth of homelessness in city
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says it s "devastating" to see the homeless count rise in the city and is blaming the federal government for breaking a promise to invest millions to solve the problem.

Preliminary figures show the homeless count rose by two per cent to more than 2,200 in the past year, the same rate that it rose in the year previous.

The figure means Vancouver has the highest per capita rate of homelessness for any major Canadian city, but Stewart says it would be worse if Vancouver and the province had not introduced aggressive measures to increase the supply of housing.

Those measures include 930 social and supportive homes built in 2018 and 606 temporary modular homes built and occupied in 2018 and early 2019.

A statement from Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos disputed Stewart s assessment of the federal response, saying Ottawa has spent $28 million over the past two years on fighting homelessness in Vancouver.

Stewart says the fact that more than one quarter of survey respondents said they had been homeless for less than six months shows the affordability crisis remains alive and well, adding that solving the complicated problem requires co-operation across different levels of government.

But he says at the federal level, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed millions of dollars to increase supply in the city and has only delivered about $300,000 through two announcements.

"The big missing piece here is from the federal government. The prime minister pledged to cut homelessness in half but we still haven t seen any real money hit the ground here," he said.

Duclos said Stewart s assessment of how much the federal government has spent in Vancouver is wrong, because it has spent "more than 90 times the number the mayor references."

"Over the next four years, we re investing another $83 million to fight homelessness in Vancouver," he said.

"We recognize there s still much work to do, and we are continuing to work with the city of Vancouver, other levels of government, NGOs, Indigenous partners, and communities across Canada to provide more stable housing to people living in homelessness and increasing support for vulnerable groups."

The count includes 614 people who said they were "unsheltered," and 1,609 people who were "sheltered," which could include various forms of unofficial housing like living in cars, abandoned buildings, or staying with friends.
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