Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, have issued the following statement in recognition of Homelessness Action Week, Oct. 13 to Oct. 19:
“Homelessness is a complex issue causing deep and lasting impacts on the lives of too many people in B.C. We see it every day on our streets and in encampments that pop up in our communities. It can also be invisible — people sleeping on couches or staying in harmful relationships for shelter. It is personal stories of hardship and struggle, but it is also the result of system failures, impossibly high rents, barriers to support and poverty.
“Throughout B.C., community organizations and people with lived experience of homelessness have been raising their voices for years. And for too long, they were left with little support to address a growing problem.
“By proclaiming Oct. 13 to 19 Homelessness Action Week in B.C., the Province acknowledges the tireless work of organizations and advocates to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness. We hope to increase awareness and empathy, and encourage more people to get involved with local organizations and solutions. As a government, we’re committed to building on the successes we have seen responding to homelessness with proactive and preventative initiatives to stop homelessness before it happens.
“The new Office of Homelessness Coordination is working across government and with community partners to deliver a co-ordinated response to homelessness that is based on prevention and, if it does occur, an immediate response and stability so that it only occurs once. In everything we do, we are building a culture of empathy and putting people first.
“We’ve made historic housing investments. Through our Rapid Response to Homelessness program and BuildingBC: Supportive Housing program, we are building 4,700 supportive homes over 10 years for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. In just over two years, we have opened 2,000 supportive homes, with more than 800 more in progress. Twenty-nine municipalities have partnered with us so far to help people and improve the overall health of their communities. In addition, government is funding tens of thousands of new affordable rental units through our provincial housing plan, Homes for BC.
“These new supportive houses do more than put a roof over people’s heads. They provide 24/7 staffing and support services so help people can get the help they need. Preventing the reoccurrence of homelessness requires a strong foundation of supports and services, with a focus on the key areas of poverty reduction, mental health and addictions support, and more accessible affordable housing.
“The beginning of this work is laid out in two strategies that we released earlier this year: TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, and A Pathway to Hope: A roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better for people in British Columbia.
“TogetherBC outlines programs and policies across government that will lift people up and out of poverty — and stay there — by removing barriers, creating social inclusion and continuing to focus on reconciliation.
“A Pathway to Hope lays out the first steps to turn the corner on the overdose crisis and create a sustainable system of supports for providers and people receiving care. We are helping supportive recovery homes become safer spaces for vulnerable people by increasing the daily user fee rates for the first time in 10 years and updating the Community Care and Assisted Living Act to support care options and add protection for the people receiving care.
“We are also investing in local solutions so local organizations have the resources and tools to continue to make meaningful change in communities.
“$10 million in provincial grants will service the sustainability of existing rent banks and create a provincewide system to help people throughout B.C. We are helping communities create local plans and projects for homelessness and poverty reduction through a $6-million grant for Homelessness Community Action grants and $5 million for local government poverty reduction projects and plans. We have also provided $3.5 million for local overdose prevention projects to help communities tackle the overdose crisis on the ground.
“The best way to tackle the complex issue of homelessness is through teamwork. Over the past two years, the Province has been stepping up to become the partner that community organizations need to continue to make real change. We look forward to a future home for everyone.”
TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy:
Building BC: Rapid Response to Homelessness program: https://www.bchousing.org/partner-services/Building-BC/rapid-response-homelessness
A Pathway to Hope: A roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better for people in British Columbia: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BCMentalHealthRoadmap_2019.pdf
For a map of all announced supportive housing projects, visit: https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC
Learn more about rent banks in B.C.: https://www.bcrentbank.ca