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Affordable, supportive housing needed now

THERE were 117 homeless people counted on the North Shore during the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count in March of this year.

THERE were 117 homeless people counted on the North Shore during the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count in March of this year.

Although the overall number of homeless people counted was slightly lower than in 2008, there was a 28 per cent increase in the number of homeless youth found.

Surveys show that there are growing numbers of recently homeless youth, seniors and single parents with young children.

Homeless counts are considered to be minimum numbers, with many homeless people missed during the 24-hour count.

Leaving people homeless is not only a terrible injustice, it is just not cost-effective. It costs government less to house people than to leave them homeless. The cost per year to provide housing for someone struggling with mental illness and/or addictions is $37,000 a year, which includes full support services. It also provides an address and telephone which helps a person find suitable employment.

In comparison, the cost to the taxpayer to support a homeless person on the street or in a shelter is estimated to be as high as $55,000/year for emergency room services, shelter costs as well as police, fire and ambulance services.

For perspective, it costs taxpayers $109,000 a year to house one person in prison.

We can end homelessness. The key is building new rental and supportive housing units. We need more affordable housing options to ensure this crisis does not escalate and so future generations are properly accommodated.

In order to increase the supply of rental units, the federal government must reinstate tax incentives for apartment building owners and developers who want to build rental units.

Various tax incentives were introduced shortly after the Second World War, but were discontinued in 1993. While these incentives were in place, all Canadians were adequately housed.

Much of the rental stock along the Lonsdale corridor is aging, and will eventually need to be replaced. To avoid an even greater housing crisis in our future, we need incentives for developers to replace them with rental units rather than expensive, strata title condos., Cove Community Church and Mount Seymour United Church will hold a movie night on Saturday, Oct. 15 to showcase two films that highlight homelessness: The Cats of Mirikitani, by Linda Hattendorf, and Homelessness Voices 2010, by Les Merson. Guest speaker Judy Graves will share her experiences of working with homeless people of Vancouver and surrounding areas. The event starts at 7 p.m., at Mount Seymour United Church, 1200 Parkgate Avenue, North Vancouver. Donations of men's socks and underwear will be collected for the North Shore Outlook Shelter.