Homelessness is one of the biggest challenges we face in Vancouver. There are hundreds of people sleeping on our streets – an estimated 1,700 people are homeless, sleeping in parks, in doorways, and in alleys. It is an embarrassment that in a city with so much compassion, so much wealth, and so much ingenuity, hundreds of people are forced to live in horrible conditions.

It is not an easy challenge to address. Many people who are homeless are also dealing with mental illness or addiction issues, and have experienced physical and emotional abuse in their lives. Homelessness impacts people and neighbourhoods right across our city.

At City Hall, we have set the goal of ending street homelessness in Vancouver by 2015. Everyone benefits when a person who has been living on the street is given access to a safe, secure place to live.

The good news is that we’re making progress. In partnership with the Province, we have opened several emergency homeless shelters to provide people on the street with a safe, secure place to sleep at night. The result is that we have decreased the number of people sleeping on the street by 400 in just 18 months.

Our strategy is to help people off the streets and into shelters, and from shelters into housing. The Provincial Government is investing over $333 million to build new supportive housing – over 1,500 new units in Vancouver. The city has donated $64 million worth of land to help get this new housing built.

We’ve got a number of other projects on the go. We’re designing a new, mixed-used neighbourhood at Little Mountain, Vancouver’s oldest social housing site. We’re partnering with the Mental Health Commission of Canada on the Bosman Hotel, where we’ll be providing over 100 people living on the streets with access to housing and 24/7 health services.

There’s a lot of good work being done to help people break the cycle of homelessness in Vancouver. It’s not going to be easy, but City Hall is committed to doing everything we can to achieve our goal of ending street homelessness in Vancouver by 2015.