Mayor Sullivan seeks emergency funding to support Vancouver’s homeless population

In advance of a debate regarding a five-point proposal by Councillor Kim Capri to deal with Vancouver’s homeless crisis, Mayor Sam Sullivan is calling upon the Provincial government to provide emergency funding to support our most vulnerable population this winter.

“This is only a first step in helping to meet the immediate needs of the approximately one thousand homeless people wandering Vancouver’s streets on a nightly basis,” says Mayor Sullivan. “Our request for emergency funding to prevent any further SROs from closing in the next six months will go a long way in securing housing for those at risk of homelessness.”

Emergency funding would ensure that single room accommodation hotels remain economically viable and meet both provincial and municipal standards of maintenance.

Mayor Sullivan has extended an invitation to various community groups and service providers to join him for a roundtable meeting on homelessness on November 15. Representatives from the Provincial and Federal governments have also been invited.

A five-part motion to address homelessness will be debated this Thursday afternoon at the City’s Planning and Environment Committee. Councillor Capri’s motion will ask that staff ‘fast-track’ the pre-development of three downtown sites currently slated for social housing. It will also provide for flexibility in the size of new social housing units being developed as a means of creating more units for every social housing dollar invested.

“I will also continue to encourage my Caucus and the Opposition to support the virtual moratorium that currently exists regarding SRA conversion in Vancouver,” said Mayor Sullivan. “It is clear that the existing moratorium is only a short-term, temporary fix to what should be seen as a much more complex problem that requires long-term solutions.”

If passed, the motion will also provide for the City Manager to immediately identify the gap that exists with relation to emergency shelters in Vancouver.

“I know the Mayor and I are both committed to seeking new provincial funding for emergency shelter beds if our staff indicate that there is a gap in services for our most needy,” said Councillor Capri. “If this can be identified, we will need to immediately mobilize our community and seek to locate a facility that will provide desperately needed shelter for as many homeless people as possible.”

Councillor Capri has also called for a meeting between the City of Vancouver, BC Housing and shelter operators to look at immediate changes to the guidelines for opening emergency shelter beds in existing facilities this Winter. She will for a discussion on the possibility of raising the temperature threshold for opening emergency beds, providing hot meals at these facilities as well as ensuring that they are open longer hours in order to provide a full night’s sleep for the homeless.

Mayor Sullivan also commented on the recent announcement that the Provincial Government plans to increase the shelter allowance for welfare recipients, and congratulated Premier Gordon Campbell for his commitment to address the needs of people with mental illnesses who are living on the streets.

“I believe the Province has to move quickly in the short term to get beds open for the severely mentally ill, and I fully support the Premier in his efforts to restore services to this population,” the Mayor said. “It is inhumane to allow them to spend even one more night on the streets of Vancouver.”

MOTION to be debated at the Planning and Environment Committee meeting
on November 2 at 2:00pm

Actions to Address Homelessness

MOVED by Councillor Kim Capri
SECONDED by Councillor Suzanne Anton

WHEREAS Mayor Sam Sullivan will officially declare Oct 16 – 22 as Homeless Awareness Week;

WHEREAS the number of homeless in the city has doubled to more than 1,000 since 2001 and it is projected the number of homeless in Vancouver could triple by 2010;

WHEREAS it is estimated that the average new social housing unit costs $200,000;
WHEREAS Single Room Occupancy hotels and rooming houses provide the most affordable housing in the city, need to be kept open until they can be replaced, but are old, only marginally viable and therefore at risk of closure;

WHEREAS Council approved the Homeless Action Plan in June 2005 that identified three ways to home (housing, income and services) with supportive housing, improved access to welfare, and assertive case management as the plan’s highest priorities;

WHEREAS the Province of BC recently announced Housing Matters BC setting out the Province’s housing strategies, which include funding for supportive housing and which identifies vulnerable populations including those at risk of homelessness as the Province’s top priority;
AND WHEREAS the Province through the Premier’s Task Force on Homelessness, Mental Illness and Addictions has challenged municipalities to review their regulations and approval processes and ensure that their regulatory frameworks support the development of affordable and supportive housing;


A. Staff review the Vancouver Charter to identify possible amendments that would support the development of affordable and supportive housing in Vancouver including consideration of property tax relief, transferable density, and bonus zoning;

B. As a direct means of accommodating the full range of housing needs of the homeless and at-risk; staff work with BC housing and provide support for the immediate replacement of existing single room occupancy units with new, well-designed units of greater floor space per occupant; these units must include modern, properly staffed common areas that permit tenants to interact in a safe and healthy environment;

C. Staff, in co-operation with BC Housing, undertake a “fast-track” process for the design and predevelopment for 3 of the City’s downtown sites designated for SRO replacement housing, including the support services required and capital and operating budgets, in anticipation of future senior government funding for housing for vulnerable and at-risk populations;

D. Staff, in co-operation with BC Housing, review the plans for cold/wet and extreme weather shelter for the 06/07 winter to ensure that shelter space is available to accommodate the homeless in need of and seeking shelter, and report back to Council by the end of November if there is a need to expand the winter shelter capacity in the city; and

E. THAT Council request that the Province provide emergency funding for the Single Room Accommodation (SRA) designated buildings in the City to ensure they continue to be viable and properly maintained and managed, and that the City administer the funds in the context of the enforcement of the City’s by-laws including entering into agreements with SRA owners to ensure they manage and maintain their buildings in accordance with City by-laws and provincial legislation.