Vancouver’s homeless population is growing at such a fearsome rate that it could triple to 3,000 people by the time visitors arrive for the 2010 Olympic Games, says a report released by an advocacy group Thursday.
“Without immediate action, the estimated 2.3 million visitors who come to our city to see the Olympics will find a Vancouver in the midst of an urban epidemic of poverty,” said Pivot Legal Society spokesman David Eby as he released the report.
The burgeoning homeless population would be “clear evidence of a broken commitment to address the impact of the 2010 Olympics,” Eby said.
When Vancouver bid for the 2010 games, federal, provincial and municipal governments pledged to protect the city’s rental housing and ensure no one would be left homeless because of the Games.
The city estimates that about 1,200 people currently sleep outside without shelter on a nightly basis.
A room in the Burns Block of Vancouver’s downtown east side was home to Veronica Crow Eagle for eight years. It wasn’t a home she was proud of. People urinated on the floor of her shared bathroom and garbage, including used hypodermic needles, piled up in the public spaces.
But the 61-year-old, who suffers from arthritis and a painful intestinal inflammation called Crohn’s disease, was hard pressed to find replacement lodging when the building failed a fire safety inspection. She and the other tenants were forced onto the street.
Crow Eagle, who has found a new place to live, considers herself lucky.
“Most of the rents run $400 to $465,” she said.
Not everyone can afford those rates. The standard shelter allowance for welfare recipients is $325 dollars a month. The rate hasn’t increased in 12 years.
“There’s hardly anyone who’ll give you a rent for $325,” said Crow Eagle.
Homelessness has been a prevalent issue in the local media. Here is more coverage on the issue: