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Vancouver's homeless moving into housing

Vancouverites will find out in May whether the number of people considered homeless in the city has increased, decreased or remained steady since last years count.

Vancouverites will find out in May whether the number of people considered homeless in the city has increased, decreased or remained steady since last years count.

But there are signs the homeless population is on the decline this year, according to Judy Graves, the citys homeless advocate, who participated in the two-day count last week with 300 volunteers.

My high point with the count was walking past doorways that used to be full of people and actually having to look to find people, Graves told the Courier. Theres a lot of places where people used to be living and theyre not there anymore.

When asked whether those people might have moved on to other areas of the city, Graves said she knows thats not the case. Theyve moved into housing, she added.

I know those people, I know where they are, she said.

In March 2012, the City of Vancouver count recorded 1,602 homeless people, with 1,296 in some form of shelter and 306 on the street.

Since that count, social housing buildings on city property opened at Seventh and Fir, 188 East First Ave. and at 16th and Dunbar. The combined total of units is 242. The 24-unit Skwachays Healing Lodge in the Downtown Eastside also opened in June 2012.

Recently, the B.C. government leased the former Howard Johnson hotel at 395 Kingsway more commonly known as the Biltmore to provide 100 interim housing spaces for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Also, the government announced last week that it will continue to fund three of the citys so-called HEAT shelters for another 12 months.

Despite the efforts of the city and provincial governments, Graves said she came across people living in the street who were within days of moving into a single-room occupancy hotel. What that means is everything is so chockablock full that people have to continue to wait outside until a single room is ready, she said.

The number of homeless people in Vancouver in shelters and on the street has increased steadily in the past decade. A total of 628 homeless people were recorded in 2002 and reached a high of 1,715 in 2010.

Dr. Michael Krausz from the University of B.C. released a report last year that found 85 per cent of homeless people studied in his survey reported moderate to severe emotional, physical or sexual abuse in their childhood.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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