VANCOUVER — The B.C. government and City of Vancouver are partnering to build 450 new supportive homes for people experiencing homelessness.
Housing Minister Selina Robinson and Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced plans to build 98 temporary modular homes just a few blocks from Strathcona Park where a homeless encampment has been growing.
Another 350 units of permanent supportive housing are planned for other city-owned lands with locations to be announced in the next few months.
The goal is to open the temporary units next spring pending a public information session, and the units will remain in place for about five years with an option to renew the lease for another five.
Stewart says the COVID-19 crisis and physical distancing measures have reduced space in places like shelters, dealing another blow to some of the city's most vulnerable people.
He says the city plans to move people camping at Strathcona Park into housing in a similar process as was undertaken at Oppenheimer Park.
"We started 2020 with a housing and homelessness crisis that has been exacerbated by an overdose crisis due to the poisoned drug supply. COVID-19 has made things much more difficult," Stewart says.
"These are tough times for everyone but especially those with the fewest resources."
Robinson says the province has experienced a housing affordability crisis for years, but the growth rate of homelessness had begun to slow until the pandemic struck.
"The importance of housing has become even clearer in the last few months," she says.
Robinson says the new units are part of the province's plan to provide both immediate and long-term solutions that include wraparound services like health, wellness and employment support.
Once open, each site will be managed by a non-profit housing operator who will be present full time, the government says in a news release.
The new units are among about 1,000 supportive homes opened in the city as part of a provincial housing plan since 2017.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2020.
Amy Smart, The Canadian Press