2017 was the worst year for homeless Downtown Eastside (DTES) residents since the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) began doing these annual reports in 2008.
With an estimated 1,200 homeless people living in the DTES, with over 500 DTES residents evicted from their homes through no fault of their own, with only 21 new units of housing at welfare rate, with average rents in privately owned and run hotels ramping up to $687 a month, and with the fentanyl overdose tragedies killing people weekly, the community is in deep crisis. Governments need to act immediately to save lives lost to homelessness and drug overdoses.
This report will focus on what the housing and homelessness situation is and what the government needs to do to ensure everyone is housed.
While there have been some token housing announcements, the new Federal Housing Strategy only commits to ending half of chronic homelessness in Canada (2-20% of all homelessness) in one decade. The City’s new housing strategy doesn’t mention attempting to end homelessness. The Province has provided funds for 600 units of modular housing, which is good, but we need modular housing for all homeless people (2,138 counted in Vancouver in March 2017).
In January 2018 the Province announced that it would fund about 300 welfare rate units in the DTES but they won’t be built, probably, for at least 3 to 7 years. These 300 units will only partially make up for the over 500 that we lost in 2017 alone. While the number of affordable units in the DTES and everywhere diminished, the number of low income people in the DTES who are on welfare and disability has increased by almost a hundred people in the last year. Low income people may not be displaced from the neighbourhood, but they are displaced from their homes to the street.