Homelessness Action Week


October 11-17 is Homelessness Action Week in British Columbia. While most of us were enjoying our Thanksgiving dinner last weekend, dozens of people right here in the Tri-Cities have no permanent place to call home. It’s sobering, and it’s a problem that continues to grow. In 2002, the estimated number of homeless persons in the Tri-Cities was 13. In 2005 it was 38 and in March of 2008 the formal homeless count estimate was 94. These numbers are probably artificially low. Outreach work by the Hope For Freedom Society provides a more accurate estimate of 213 persons in March 2008.

ID_08In a region as prosperous as ours, why are so many people homeless? Lack of income and affordable housing play a big part. The maximum housing allowance available to a single person on welfare is $375/month. But in the Greater Vancouver area, the average rent for a one bedroom apartment is just over $800 per month. This number represents a challenge even for those who are employed in low-income jobs. Lack of social services such as drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services, counseling, and assistance with daily living also contribute to homelessness in our region.

If you’re anything like me you are well aware of the homelessness problem right in our own back yard. But you feel overwhelmed and unsure of the best way to help. Here are a few resources and suggestions for how to get involved:

  • Treat the homeless people that you encounter with dignity and respect.
  • Write your MLA, MP and local council, and let them know that you’re concerned about homelessness in your community.
  • Donate to the local food banks run by the SHARE society.
  • Learn about the Greater Vancouver Homelessness Plan.
  • Learn about the Tri-City Homelessness Task Group.
  • Learn about the Homes for Good Society, working to end homelessness in our region.
  • Advocate for a permanent homeless shelter in the Tri-Cities.
  • Donate supplies such as clean clothing, socks, underwear, footwear, and toiletries.
  • By working together, we can make a difference in our community. And not just for one week out of the year.

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