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BC  

Thousands living homeless

The first-ever provincewide homeless-count report found almost 8,000 people are homeless in B.C.

And Indigenous peoples and former children in care are significantly overrepresented.

According to the report - which brings together statistics from 24 communities over the past two years - at least 7,655 people are experiencing homelessness across a broad demographic of individuals, families, youth and seniors.

"Too many British Columbians - working, on a pension, suffering from illness - have been left behind for far too long," said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. "This level of homelessness should never have been allowed to take hold. The numbers we're seeing make us even more determined to make housing more available and affordable for all British Columbians."

The B.C. government began working with partners to take action on homelessness soon after being sworn in last year by fast-tracking modular housing in 22 communities, and supportive housing for Indigenous peoples, seniors, and women and children fleeing violence.

Modular units are being built in Vernon, Kelowna and Kamloops.

The Vernon shelter and low-income apartments are expected to open early next year.

"Having a place to call home, knowing there is somewhere to go that is safe and secure means different things to different people," said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "For some, it is a new start, opening a door to new opportunities. For others it is hope, relief from grinding despair.

"At the same time, we know there are many more people who still need a safe place to call home. We continue to work closely with all our partners to find solutions, build new housing and deliver effective supports. The kind of homelessness we're seeing today didn't happen overnight and it won't be fixed overnight, but we haven't waited to get started."

The report is the first time this information has been compiled on a provincial level and will help government, community partners and housing providers develop better supports and services to help people who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

"This report is another reminder of why we have made it a priority to rebuild the social programs people rely on," added Simpson. "Many people living on the street are struggling with challenges that are intensified through their experience of being homeless. You can't live on the street and not be affected both mentally and physically by the constant struggle.

"In the coming months, we will be looking to other levels of government and our community partners to help us deliver a wide range of supports, with a focus on early intervention services that will help prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place."



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