Homelessness Action Week kicked off yesterday for the eighth time in Canada.
Locally, a task force of community organizations, governments and volunteers have organized a number of events (see page 3) to connect the homeless with resources and services.
Representatives from the task force have told all three North Shore councils that outreach workers believe the number of homeless on the North Shore has risen since a 2011 count identified 120 individuals. They believe the number could be as high as 300 or more on any given day.
This week's work is commendable, but the task force also exists to raise awareness with the public on the issue of homelessness and to start the conversation.
This is a goal the province should not only be embracing, but leading. The City of Vancouver is suggesting a task force on mental health and addictions. Given the recent pressures on Victoria to consider reopening or recreating a version of the Riverview Hospital, one might expect the B.C. Liberals would be all over Vancouver's proposal.
Those with mental health and addiction issues consume an out-of-proportion-totheir-numbers amount of funding and resources. If they are not cared for and supported, they will continue to do so.
The HOpe Centre will increase diagnostic and treatment services for the mentally ill on the North Shore. But it will not be a care facility. Meanwhile, the province has said it has no plans to reopen Riverview. What is clearly needed in Vancouver and possibly in North Vancouver are more supported living facilities to provide stable environments for those who need them. The Lookout Society argues that it costs $37,000 to house a homeless person, but $55,000 to leave them on the streets.
This is a conversation worth having.
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