Fewer homeless seen on Vancouver streets

Former Biltmore Hotel to become social housing

The citys homeless advocate is anticipating next months City of Vancouver-led homeless count will see a decrease in the number of people sleeping on the streets.

Judy Graves said she has noticed fewer or no homeless people in Kitsilano and areas of South Vancouver, the West End, Yaletown and Stanley Park, where historically a homeless population was evident. My best bet is that well be down a little, Graves told the Courier. I dont think well be way down but there are whole areas of Vancouver that used to have people sleeping out that dont now.

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Graves attributed the drop in homeless people to new social housing, continuous funding for shelters and aggressive outreach work by a variety of groups.

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

Since that count, new 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.

On Tuesday, Housing Minister Rich Coleman announced two housing projects designed to get more people off the street.

The B.C. government has 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.

In addition, Coleman said a new 10-storey, 147-apartment building at 220 Princess Ave. will be built to provide housing for single women and women with children.

The property on Princess, which is worth $4 million and owned by the city, used to be home to the Drake hotel. It is one of the 14 sites owned by the city and being built with money from the B.C. government. So far, seven buildings have opened.

While the B.C. government is providing the bulk of the financing for the 14 sites, the Streetohome Foundation, which raises money through companies and citizens, has committed to help fund at least eight of the buildings.

Streetohome will contribute $2.9 million to the new building on Princess, which will be named in memory of the late Lorna Budzey.

Budzey was a former tenant of RainCity Housing, the nonprofit housing operator that will manage the building.

It is scheduled to open in spring 2014.

I look forward to seeing everybody when the keys are in the door, said Leslie Remund, acting executive director of RainCity Housing, at Tuesdays press conference held in the Japanese Hall on Alexander Street.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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