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"That [building social housing] is the first step. The second step is to increase shelter rates," she said.
Those on basic social assistance in British Columbia get a shelter allowance of $325 a month and a living allowance of $185. Those rates haven't changed since they were established in 1994, although Premier Gordon Campbell had promised increases in the next budget.
"Don't wait until the spring and the next budget. That's just cruel. Make a change to those shelter rates now," Ms. James said.
This is the final instalment of a special five-part Globe series on homelessness in Vancouver. Read the entire series online at globeandmail.com
Left behind with last resorts
"My friend has called all of the shelters on the list of shelters I have with me to find space, and all of the shelters are full. I will stay in a tent in Stanley Park tonight." -- Sara Upshaw, homeless person, in an affidavit with Pivot Legal Society
"The last resort is the Contact Centre; you can stay there for the night, but they only allow 10 chairs and you can't lie down. You can sleep, if you sit in a chair. . . . There are big lines to get into the shelters, so you often get turned away." -- Dave Lindsay, homeless person, in an affidavit with Pivot Legal Society
"I stay in different places outside, usually a different place every night, away from the public. I'll go anywhere." -- Gordie Goodman, homeless person, in an affidavit with Pivot Legal Society
"From half a block away, she appeared clean and well dressed. We were going to keep walking, but something drew me to her. Originally from Kelowna, she's 18 and has been homeless and on the streets of Vancouver since she turned 16 and was kicked out of a foster home. She hasn't been able to get a youth agreement, says she had trouble with the paperwork. Unable to qualify for social assistance, she's turned to prostitution for income and multiple drugs to forget. . . ." -- Interviewer with the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia in a 2005 report on the Greater Vancouver homeless count
"A fellow we met at the Station Skytrain station told us he was sleeping rough and trying to get his life back together. He was in his mid-50s. He told us about his career as a construction worker. He pointed to several tall buildings in the area and told us how he had worked on each of them." -- Interviewer with the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia in a 2005 report on the Greater Vancouver homeless count
"I approached the sleeping bag under the Cambie Street Bridge at 5:30 a.m. and said hello. The man inside was startled, but calmed down very quickly once he woke up. He was in his 60s and said he'd always slept outside. He didn't stay in shelters because of the rules and the other people that stay there. It can be noisy. He also wanted to stay away from the Downtown Eastside. He said he didn't have any problems with mental illness and wasn't addicted to anything, except maybe a bit of alcohol. Pension and Old Age Security were his main sources of income. . . ." -- Interviewer with the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia in a 2005 report on the Greater Vancouver homeless count
Politicians may debate which body bears the most responsibility for tackling homelessness, but Vancouver residents put that burden squarely on the shoulders of the provincial government, according to a poll by The Strategic Counsel. The survey of 500 Vancouver residents aged 18 years or older was conducted between Nov. 24 and Nov. 29; polls of this size are considered accurate to within 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Which one of the following groups do you think is most responsible for finding solutions to Vancouver's homelessness problem?
The provincial government: 43%
City hall: 18%
Charitable organizations: 11%
The homeless: 7%
The federal government: 12%
Individual citizens acting with other concerned people: 6%
Don't know: 3%
SOURCE: STRATEGIC COUNSEL