rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Vancouver homelessness numbers spun out of control

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

According to Metro Vancouver's Homelessness Count released Monday, the number of homeless folks in Vancouver increased from 1,580 to 1,605 over the last three years. [i] But you wouldn't realize it from Vision Vancouver's press release and fundraising callout. Neither would it come across in any of the articles found in the mainstream press, which praised the government for "plummeting" rates of street homelessness. Nothing is further from the truth.

It should first be pointed out that the count was conducted on March 16, a day of snow - in other words, not a day to get an accurate street homeless representation. For example, Burnaby, a city which does not currently have a homeless shelter, opened a temporary Extreme Weather Response Shelter on the evening of March 15. On March 15-16, the government took exceptional measures, and it can't be doubted that people living on the streets did the same, finding floors and couches to sleep on throughout the Lower Mainland.

More importantly, the count was completed on March 16, 2011, several weeks before the City of Vancouver shut down four emergency homeless shelters. Therefore in terms of "street homelessness," the current situation is far worse than represented in the recent count, and in fact another shelter is scheduled to shut down at the end of next month.

Despite the numerous arguments against the closure of the five shelters, the City insists on shutting them down, leaving the city-owned buildings empty. When four shelters were closed last month, residents were dispersed. Some were housed, some were given one-way bus tickets out of town, and many more were made into "street homeless." Throughout the month of April, shelter residents and housing advocates mounted significant opposition to the closures, but the City was determined to complete the evictions and was willing to make 8 arrests to do so. Vision Vancouver is now speaking out the other side of its mouth, arguing that the shelters are important and are solving homelessness.

Shelters are very important for people in transition as a place to stay when other options are exhausted, but temporarily opening up shelters only to shut them down a few months later doesn't do anything to solve homelessness. Playing politics and celebrating the shift from one category of homelessness to another is counter productive. It makes it seem as though the crisis is going away. Vision has still created very little new social housing as compared to past councils. The shelters which are being celebrated are now closed.

The preliminary results from the count show that overall homelessness for the whole Metro Vancouver region has decreased by 37 people. As this is a preliminary report, statistical methods or margin of error are not described. As with in past homelessness counts, it is also emphasized the numbers in the report are minimums, and that the number of people homeless is higher than the report reflects.

* [i] There was significant confusion in the media today over Vancouver's real homelessness numbers. The sheltered and unsheltered homeless numbers are not aggregated into a total homeless number in the report, which might have added to this confusion.

This article originally appeared on the Vancouver politics blog themainlander.com

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.