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Homelessness increasing: task force

Major events planned for Action Week
homelessness rising
There are more people falling below the poverty line according to activists who run services for the homeless on the North Shore.

More seniors and families are slipping into poverty, according to the North Shore Homelessness Task Force.

Don Peters, a member of the task force, is trying to raise awareness for Homelessness Action Week, taking place from Oct. 10 to 19.

"Evidence is grim," he said. "The lineups at the Sally Ann are growing longer, they're younger, and they are older as well,"

Peters said. "The shelters are full and it's not even winter yet."

A count from 2011 estimated that there are 120 homeless people on the North Shore, but outreach workers estimate the present number is at least 300, Peters said.

Over the last few years, the task force has worked to support shower programs, emergency shelters and resource cards. It has also created a roundtable for seniors at risk of homelessness, Peters said.

A community employment developer has been hired by the Lookout Society - which operates the North Shore shelter, to help those in need develop job and life skills.

"North Vancouver is a major partner and player in all of these efforts, providing time and funds throughout the year," said Peterson. "But there is a dark side because homelessness continues to increase. More people each year slip into poverty."

In B.C., poverty costs the government $2.2 to $2.3 billion annually, Peters said.

"Society as a whole bears the costs of poverty through higher medical costs and policing and crime costs," he said. "Surely a comprehensive poverty reduction plan in B.C. is something we need to look at."

On a municipal level, Peters asked for council's continued support of the task force. "Look for and nurture housing champions wherever you can find them," he said.

Council members expressed interest in meeting with local MPs and MLAs to address the issue.

"We should be doing absolutely everything we can," said Coun. Craig Keating. "Sometimes it's going to be compelling people to build more social housing through our redevelopment application, sometimes it's going to be taking on housing we have to provide. .. sometimes it's going to be talking about the diversity of housing supply.

"Ultimately housing is a commodity like any other commodity," Keating said. "Its price rises because it's being restricted.

"This isn't a problem of another time and another people. It's here, it's now, and it's us."

Community events, including dinners, movies and music are taking place throughout the week:

Oct. 10: Movie, dinner and discussion night, 6 p.m., Ambleside Youth Centre, 1018 Marine Dr., WV.

Oct. 14: Thanksgiving dinner, 5 p.m., Lookout Shelter, 705 West Second St., NV. Everyone welcome.

Oct. 15: Community dinner and music, 5:30 p.m., North Lonsdale United Church, 3380 Lonsdale Ave., NV. RSVP only to 604-985-4911.

Oct. 16: North Shore Connect Day (includes meals, health clinic, clothing vouchers, hair cuts, employment programs, income assistance and counselling programs) 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., John Braithwaite Community Centre, 145 W. First St., NV.

Oct. 16: Youth dinner, 5 p.m., Youth Safe House, open to present and past guests.

Oct. 17: Mothers and kids lunch, 11 a.m., Salvation Army, 105 W. 12th St., NV.

Oct. 18: Senior's tea, 10 a.m., North Shore Neighbourhood House, 225 East Second St., NV.

Oct. 19: Street soccer exhibition game, 4:30 p.m., John Braithwaite Community Centre, , 145 W. First St., NV. Dinner for players hosted by Salvation Army.

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