Full homeless shelters, steady turnaway rates demonstrate urgent need for new housing and shelters

Vancouver’s four emergency winter shelters remain at full capacity, and have had to consistently turn people away due to lack of available space – a reminder of the urgent need for more investment in affordable housing, says Mayor Gregor Robertson.

New numbers from the Extreme Weather Response Program show that since the Province and City of Vancouver opened four temporary winter shelters at the beginning of December, an average of 24 homeless individuals each night have been turned away from these facilities due to a lack of available space.  Each shelter provides space for 40 people, for a total of 160 shelter beds.
Since they opened in early December, the total number of times a shelter had to turn somebody away because there was not any more room was:

860 Richards183
1210 Seymour233
2610 Victoria194
25 East 5th283

“These four winter shelters have helped fill an urgent need for a safe place to sleep for many people on the street, but the turnaway numbers show there is much more work to do,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “It’s a compelling reminder of the need for more Provincial investment in new supportive housing, and of how all levels of government must work together to help meet our goal of ending street homelessness in Vancouver by 2015.”

All four shelters are low barrier, meaning they allow residents to bring pets and shopping carts inside. The shelters are placed in areas of the city based on the City’s annual homeless count.

Although extra shelter capacity is provided when an extreme weather alert is activated, many of these shelters do not open until later in the day, and can be difficult for people to travel to, depending on their location.

Sean Spear, Associate Director with RainCity Housing, which operates all four winter shelters, said that the shelters are making a difference in people’s lives, and that the neighbourhood response has been very positive. “We’re seeing people who normally wouldn’t come inside, come to our shelters, and in the process they’re getting a warm meal, access to health services, and a safe place to sleep. We’re also very grateful to the neighbours of all four shelters who donated food and warm clothing, and shown support for our shelter residents during the holiday season. It is much appreciated and made a big difference.”

If people wish to make a small direct donation to the shelters during these colder winter months, they can drop off donations of socks, razors, towels and new underwear at the Triage Shelter, located at 707 Powell. The Gathering Place (609 Helmcken), which offers programs and services to low income and at-risk adults and youth in Downtown South, is also accepting donations of clothing. Items needed include socks, shoes, gloves, and blankets.