After broad public pressure and a petition by shelter residents, as well as direct actions planned in the lead-up to Central Shelter’s April 20th closure, the provincial government has announced that it will provide funding to keep the Central Shelter open. Funding will also be extended to two other shelters (First United and New Fountain).
The remaining four shelters in Vancouver are scheduled for closure on separate dates between April 23rd and April 28th. As a result, about 200 people will be evicted from their only shelter. VanAct and members of the Citywide Housing Coalition are currently mobilizing shelter residents for a collective response to the government’s barbarous and humilitating agenda.
BC Housing has said it will house residents of the four remaining shelters, but not the hundred of street homeless turned away from those shelters due to lack of space*. However, much of the limited housing provided is extremely inadequate, consisting of bug-infested SROs (10 foot x 10 foot single-person rooms). Two dozen SRO buildings were recently purchased by the Province. Of the numerous affordable housing promises recently broken, only one has until now stood intact: the promise to purchase and renovate these two dozen Vancouver SROs. However, in order to house residents of the four closing shelters, the government has had to break its last promise and halt planned SRO renovations.
The future of these decrepit unrenovated building is also at risk. Developer Bob Rennie, who meets regularly with Minister Coleman, has stated, ʺmy bet is that the province will maintain this housing in place until 2010 and post‐Winter Olympics and then start to decentralize this housing to other areas and sell off or rebuild the sites.” Newly available downtown properties would quickly be purchased by developers like Holborn and Concord to build unaffordable condos. The consequence would be not only the construction of unaffordable units, but the general increase in overall property values and thus the introduction of an even stronger impetus for existing slumlords to close their affordable buildings and convert to high-end units, such as has already happened to three privately owned SRO buildings surrounding Woodward’s at Hastings and Abbott.
*The recent Homeless Count shows a 12% rise in homelessness since 2008