“Good morning, my name’s DJ, I’m part of a team of volunteers going around to chat with people living outside. Do you want a cigarette?”
And that’s how it begins, the distressingly normalized task of volunteering to count homeless people in Metro Vancouver. Since 2002, cities across Metro Vancouver have been sending out volunteers every three years to enumerate and document a growing crisis. Since 2010, in the face of an avalanche of homelessness, Vancouver has conducted yearly counts.
Despite warnings from Metro-area mayors, few expected triple-digit increases in homelessness throughout Vancouver’s suburbs between 2014 and 2017. Delta saw an increase of 142 per cent; Langley, 124 per cent; and the Tri-Cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody), an increase of 113 per cent.
As with anything, the devil is in the details and statistics can be manipulated to influence policy based on personal agendas rather than evidence. And so, let’s take a closer look at the preliminary findings.
142 per cent! That’s impossible!
The increase in Delta, for example, is striking: 142 per cent! Increases of varying amounts across the region are, however, relatively consistent (with only the North Shore showing a decrease in homeless people tallied during the 24 hours of the count).
In looking at this data, what we can say with certainty is that homelessness is not a “Vancouver problem,” nor are homeless people migrating en masse to the suburbs based on Vancouver’s continued high rates and years of data indicating that many people remain in their home communities.
The increase in Delta provides an interesting example of how bad housing policy and growing poverty may be driving up homelessness in suburban areas. It may also be a strong indicator that previous homeless counts have drastically underestimated homelessness in more rural and suburban communities.
No one with an ounce of sense disagrees these counts constitute a significant underrepresentation of homelessness, and some new initiatives, including a dedicated rural strategy and “connect events” (special service events in suburban areas designed to attract homeless people so they can be surveyed) in less urban areas may also be increasing capacity to find people who were previously excluded from the count.Read more
Pivot Legal Society commends Metro Vancouver mayors’ push for greater funding and support to end homelessness in BC
February 27, 2017
What: Pivot Legal lawyer and campaigner DJ Larkin is available to comment on the key findings of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Homelessness Task Force report and requests for action from provincial parties.Read more
First off, a big thank you to the countless people who emailed, tweeted and showed up in person to fight a move by three Park Board commissioners to shut down warming shelters for the homeless – effectively locking them out in freezing temperatures.Read more
Vancouver, B.C., Coast Salish Territories [October 20, 2016]—Five Vancouver human rights groups—many of them participating in this week's Welfare Food Challenge—are calling on the provincial government to raise social assistance rates and take urgent action to address food insecurity in the province.Read more
Five Toronto Transit Commission special constables have been charged with attempting to obstruct justice and fabricating evidence for writing false tickets to homeless people, a shocking situation both in substance and because it is so rare for officers to be charged criminally in relation to their duties.Read more
Canada has long maintained that it’s a standard-bearer for human rights internationally, a dominant myth that many of us hold to be true. A report from the United Nations released this month throws cold water on that notion, however. The international body has criticized Canada for failing to meet many of its international obligations to protect vulnerable Canadians. They have also outlined how Canada can, once again, become a human rights leader.Read more
In February 2016, Pivot Legal Society was invited to provide submissions to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) as part of the committee's regular periodic review of human rights in Canada.Read more
The lawsuit BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors (DWS) v City of Abbotsford was heard by the BC Supreme Court during a six-week trial that ended August 6, 2015. Here are the DWS submissions to the Court.Read more