City to expand homeless advocacy, outreach services

The City of Vancouver is increasing its homeless advocacy and outreach services by both expanding the reach of its Homeless Outreach Team to be city-wide, and appointing a new Director of Services for the Homeless.

“The City’s goal is to ensure that no one has to sleep on the streets at night, and our expansion of new homeless shelters, interim housing and permanent housing have made a real difference,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “By expanding and improving how the City does outreach to its most vulnerable residents, we can help people get off the street faster, and into a home that meets their needs. That’s how we can build a stronger, more caring Vancouver.”

“I’d also like to welcome Ethel Whitty into her new role as Director of Services for the Homeless, who will be overseeing the City’s work to expand outreach and support for our homeless residents.”

The City will coordinate the work of its Tenant Assistance Program, which started in the late 1980s to support displaced seniors in Kerrisdale, with that of the Homeless Outreach Team, currently under the direction of the Carnegie Centre, to create a city-wide Outreach Service.

The city-wide Outreach Team, a partnership between the City of Vancouver and BC Housing, will possess the capacity and authority to locate the homeless and directly connect them to housing and income services. This team will liaise with other outreach teams and shelter providers across the city, and will also work closely with other City departments such as the VPD, Engineering, Parks’ Rangers, Vancouver Fire Services, Vancouver Public Library, Community Services and Building Inspections, and Facilities to map locations of the homeless and identify outreach gaps.

Ethel Whitty, the Director of the Carnegie Centre, will oversee this work as part of a new role as Director of Services for the Homeless. This new role will include:

  • Coordination of City-Wide Homeless Outreach with the City’s Tenant Assistant program;
  • Delivery of the annual Winter Shelter Response strategy and Homeless Count;
  • Planning of Homelessness Action Week, HomeGround Festival and the Homeless Connect events;
  • Ongoing referral to and monitoring of the tenant mixes for the City and BC Housing’s 14 site buildings;
  • Community education and media spokesperson for the City’s homeless work and general needs of the homeless.

The new alignment and expansion of staff resources for homeless advocacy is part of a restructuring following the retirement of Judy Graves, who served as the City’s homeless advocate for over 20 years. Judy will continue to be an Emeritus Advisor to the Mayor on homeless issues, and will also be meeting with other municipalities which have asked to learn from Vancouver’s progress on homelessness.

“Vancouver is a city that has made incredible strides in caring for its most vulnerable, and we’ve helped hundreds of people move from the streets into warm, stable homes,” said Ms. Graves. “I’m proud to have served with the City in supporting its goals to end street homelessness, and look forward to continue working with the City and Mayor to improve our support for some of our most vulnerable residents.”

Ethel Whitty is well placed to continue this work to address issues of homelessness. Building on nine years of experience as Director of Carnegie Centre where she oversees the work of the Centre’s Homeless Outreach Team and liaises with the low income community; she is in a position to understand the evolving situation on Vancouver streets, including the successes and challenges to providing housing.

“Nowhere is the concentration of homelessness in Vancouver as high as it is in the Downtown Eastside,” said Ms.Whitty. “Working at the heart of this community continues to give me insight into the magnitude of the obstacles the homeless face in their search for dry, warm, clean housing, nutritious food and a minimal income.”

The City of Vancouver is committed to ending street homelessness by 2015. Vancouver's Housing and Homelessness Strategy, 2012-2021 outlines the steps needed to address street homelessness and to increase the variety of affordable housing options within the city.