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Homeless shelter numbers from new emergency effort

January 6th, 2009 · 3 Comments

This bulletin just out from the mayor’s office.

Mayor announces HEAT shelter numbers from December

“No barrier” facilities provide shelter for almost 300 a night

Almost 300 homeless people found shelter every night over the past three weeks in emergency facilities opened by the Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT), Mayor Gregor Robertson said today.

More than 4,000 visits to emergency facilities were reported during the first two weeks of operation in December, providing shelter for 280 people each night.

“The facilities that HEAT helped open in the final weeks of December have provided safe, secure shelter for close to 300 people a night,” Robertson said. “All three shelters were at capacity, providing refuge for some of the hardest-to-house people living on our streets.”

The Homeless Emergency Action Team, or HEAT, was launched on December 9th. The 13-person team, composed of City staff, council members, health and safety professionals, and housing stakeholders, works to take immediate action in getting people off the street and into shelter this winter.

Robertson said there was a “no barrier” approach taken by HEAT shelters, which has been the key to bringing homeless people in off the street during the recent cold weather.

“Many homeless people are reluctant to come to a shelter, often because they can’t bring certain personal belongings inside,” said Robertson. “HEAT helped make sure that these emergency shelters allow people with pets and shopping carts. By removing barriers and putting the housing of people first, the Homeless Emergency Action Team has been able to help bring people in off the street at night.”

The three facilities opened in the first phase of the HEAT shelter strategy are:

· First United Church, which through contributions of $10,000 from the City, the Province, the Streetohome Foundation, and St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church, can remain open 24/7 for the next two months; and


· 1435 Granville and the Stanley New Fountain, which are funded through contributions of $500,000 from the City, the Province, and the Streetohome Foundation.

The shelters reported the following capacities for the last half of December:

· The First United Church had roughly 210 people a night since December 19th;

1 1435 Granville, operated by RainCity Housing, had a total of 429 people stay over the course of December 20th- January 1st, for an average of 33 people a night; and

· The Stanley New Fountain Hotel, operated by the Portland Hotel Society, had 549 people stay over the course of December 19th – January 2nd, with an average of 37 people a night.

    • Another shelter at 240 Northern Way—the third to be opened under a three-way partnership between the City, the Province, and the Streetohome Foundation—is expected to hold between 80-100 people. It will open during the week of January 12th.

      “The fact that these no-barrier shelters filled up within days of opening shows how dire the situation on our streets is,” said Mayor Robertson.

      “The City, in partnership with the Province and other housing stakeholders, needs to continue to work towards ending homelessness – and that means we need to be creating more permanent, long-term housing. These shelters are just a small, temporary step, and there is a lot more work to be done.”

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  • Dawn Steele

    Probably wasn’t planned that way, but it was good that they moved so fast on this, given the horrendous weather we had over the holidays!

    If a key underlying problem is mental health, though, we can’t leave the task of helping people live safely and with some dignity to an assortment of churches, charitites and ad hoc city/provincial grants. The focus has to move very quickly to a more solid foundation.

    And it’s not like govt doesn’t have the budget available to do something more serious…

    For example, I still find it mind-boggling that Rich Coleman’s Ministry for Housing & Social Services is not leading the charge and putting out real dollars to tackle this, when he has $20 million dollars lying around right now to waste constructing a new high-tech building to deliver current autism services (complete with luxuries like swiming pool, etc!) He recently insisted the Premier is 100% committed to going ahead even after families of children with autism across the province overwhelmingly said it’s a stunning waste of money that will be out of reach and will provide no benefits for 95% of them and that there’s a host of better things to do with that money! [http://tinyurl.com/9ev93e]

    And as an autism parent and advocate myself, don’t ask me how funding a new building to house autism services qualifies as a priority for funding from BC Housing when we have people with mental health problems (some no doubt with autism too) dying on the streets, and over 2,000 on waitlists for community living supports! [ http://www.endwaitlists-now.org]

  • A Dave

    Haven’t waded in for a while, but I have to say that these shelters really did make a big difference. The last two years the level of desperation on the DTES streets over the holidays was incredible — frightening really. This year, the few that chose to sleep outside (one on my street) were serious campers and fairly well equipped, and most people didn’t seem nearly as on edge (a big generalization, I know, but sometimes you can just feel the anger and frustration when you walk around the streets). HEAT really should be commended for ignoring the “long term, permanent housing or nothing” lobby and making this happen. I guarantee that some lives were saved this winter, and many more people were a lot less miserable.

    On the flip side, we have raging debates by car owners over whose fault it is we had so much snow (my money is on a secret govt plot that seeded the clouds this year, a trial run for the Olympics) so they couldn’t get out and drive and consume (boo hoo). I agree with Frances: it’s all hot air by people trying to score cheap political points. Most people I know just got out and shovelled and had fun, speaking to their neighbours more than they had in years and all working together. What I really liked were seeing the walking trails worn into the snow and through banks to cross the street – kind of like deer trails in the bush. Interesting and sometimes unexpected paths were worn. The only people seriously complaining (or blaming) seem to be those in the media/political circles. Can’t wait for the Burrard Bridge lane trials!

  • I do not understand why the HEAT meetings are confidential. We have done this “top down” approach with this problem forever and all it did was create hardship. So HEAT opened up a few shelters but have you noticed none are publicly advertised: such information should be on every light standard in the City. Sending a list to a community center who then files it away defeats the purpose unless the purpose is to limit access.