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Volume Ten, Number Three   May 2005

Growing Homelessness in Greater Vancouver

CPPNews - Recent research commissioned by the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness shows that rates of homelessness are increasing in the region and the number of households living at risk of homelessness in the region remains high.

Preliminary figures from the homeless count on March 15th reveal that the number of homeless people in Greater Vancouver has increased by over 100% since the homeless count in 2002. "This doubling of the number of homeless counted on March 15th 2005 reflects both an actual increase in the number of homeless people in Greater Vancouver and improvements in the ability for the volunteers to find the homeless" said Michael Goldberg, Research Director at SPARC BC and coordinator of the 2005 Homeless Count. The preliminary figures show that 2,112 homeless people were counted during this year’s count compared to 1,049 in 2002. "The increase in the number of homeless people, and especially street homeless, is of great concern to all of us," said Bernie Whiteford, Chair of the Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee.

Recent research based on data from the last Census indicates that over 126,000 people in over 56,000 households are at risk of homelessness in Greater Vancouver. At-risk households and the people who live in them are highly vulnerable to losing their housing. The data is based on the 2001 Census of Canada and provides the most up-to-date information currently available on the at-risk population. This data will be updated following the completion of the 2006 Census.

"While the rate of households at risk of homelessness has not changed much from 1996 to 2001, we must remember that there was little volatility in the cost of housing during that time" said Daniel Garrison, Senior Planner at the GVRD Homelessness Unit. "Given the rapid increase in housing prices over the last few years, one could expect that the rate of risk of homelessness will increase".

“This new research information will be quite helpful in planning and developing strategies to prevent homelessness in the region, said Cheryl Prepchuk, chair of the Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness. The Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness (RSCH) is composed of people and organizations operating and funding facilities, services or programs targeted to people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness in the region. The Aboriginal Homeless Steering Committee is composed of people from aboriginal organizations serving the homeless population. Both are dedicated to working with communities in developing solutions to homelessness in Greater Vancouver.

Show us the numbers:

Government response to long-term care study not good enough

CPPNews - (Vancouver) The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is calling on the provincial government to provide a detailed accounting of continuing care services in BC that includes a breakdown of current bed numbers by level of care.

Health Minister Shirley Bond is claiming that long-term care bed numbers reported  in a CCPA study are inaccurate and out-of-date. The CCPA has restated its call for an independent review of BC’s continuing care services. “It is simply not enough for the Health Minister to claim our numbers are wrong without providing evidence,” says Marcy Cohen, lead author of Continuing Care Renewal or Retreat? BC Residential and Home Health Care Restructuring 2001-2004.

“The Minister talks about the thousands of beds her government has supposedly created, and about promises for the future. But promises are promises. Our study looked at real beds and real services. The bottom line is that we have seen a net loss of more than 1,400 long-term care beds in BC since 2001.” Cohen says the CCPA’s numbers are current as of December 2004 and were verified by the health authorities themselves.

“The government is creating confusion with its math. It is counting renovated beds, which are not the same thing as new beds. It is also counting seniors’ housing where some meals or cleaning are provided, but no actual care. This is not long-term care.” The CCPA study looks at residential care beds (where advanced care needs can be accommodated and 24-hour nursing supervision is provided) and assisted living units (where some care is provided to seniors’ who can still live semi-independently).

“The Health Minister is also boasting about reduced waiting times for residential care, which she says have declined from more than one year to 60 to 90 days. What she isn’t saying is that this is because the government has made it much harder to qualify. In 2002, it restricted wait lists to only those seniors who require complex care within 90 days because of severe physical or cognitive disabilities. Thousands of other seniors across the province have been knocked off waiting lists or can no longer apply. The government can’t redefine the rules and then point to new waiting times as a success.”

“The government says its policies are about creating independence for seniors. But if this were true, we wouldn’t have seen reductions in access to home support and home care services. Nor would we see assisted living being used as a less costly substitute for residential care.” Cohen says that even if the government delivers on its current promises, the problem won’t be solved. “The vast majority of new beds now being promised are assisted living units, which will not be adequate to meet the needs of the most frail seniors.”

“We know that the shortage of long-term care beds is contributing to backups in hospitals. Even the health authorities are now acknowledging this.” Cohen says the cuts to continuing care may actually be increasing overall health care costs because hospital beds are so much more expensive than long-term care.

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