Thursday, January 24, 2008



Campbell government’s count is half of the real numbers, says Chudnovsky

VICTORIA – The Campbell Liberals' undercount of the number of homeless people in B.C. shows how out of touch the government is with the homelessness crisis in B.C., says New Democrat MLA David Chudnovsky.

"The numbers released today by the Minister responsible for homelessness are at least 50 per cent shy of reality," said Chudnovsky, the NDP's critic for homelessness. "Minister Coleman says there are 4,500 to 5,500 homeless people in the whole province. But the facts show there are that many homeless people in just five communities alone."

Chudnovsky said the numbers of homeless people in just Kelowna (500), Langley (100), Prince George (1050), Vancouver (2300), and Victoria (1550), amount to 5,500.

"What about all the other communities in B.C.? Clearly the Minister is out of touch with the reality. Maybe that explains his feeble response to the provincial homelessness crisis," said Chudnovsky.

On Nov. 30, Chudnovsky released a survey that shows there are more than 10,500 homeless people in the province. This conservative total comes from municipalities and front-line service providers in 60 municipalities across the province.

Chudnovsky has repeatedly asked the Minister for a count of the number of homeless people in B.C. since October. "He finally came up with an answer, and it's dead wrong," said Chudnvosky. "How can he do his job effectively if he doesn't even know the extent of the problem?"

Chudnvosky challenged Coleman to come clean on his sources. "I stand by my survey results. If Coleman thinks the municipalities and service providers are wrong, he should tell us what his figures are and identify his sources for each community in B.C. the way I did," he said. Chudnovsky challenged the Minister to join him on the next leg of his provincial consultation on homelessness, which has already visited Nanaimo, Courtenay, Kamloops, Kelowna and Penticton.

Details on Cundnovsky's consultation, called Finding Our Way Home: A Consultation on the Homelessness Crisis in B.C., can be found at


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day 3-Penticton

Our day in Penticton was a lesson in how critical the crisis of homelessness is in smaller centres in the province. The situation in the Okanagan is complicated by the fact that there is a huge influx of tourists in the summer months. It used to be that homeless people could survive the summer outside and spend the winter in low cost motel accommodation. This is more difficult now since even these rents have increased substantially. While many condominiums are being built (and many of these sit empty most of the year after they are completed) almost no low cost housing is available.

Our meeting with the Penticton City Council's social development committee was extremely useful. I want to thank the city councillors, school trustees, business people, health and social service workers, representatives from not for profit organizations, and Summerland and Penticton residents for taking the time to meet,
and especially for their clear commitment to finding solutions.

The message I get from across the province is consistent. Incomes -- both social assistance and minimum wage -- are too low for people to afford existing housing units. And even if people had more money to spend on housing, affordable units just aren't available.

Day 3-Penticton January 18th, 2008

9am-OOKNAKANE Friendship Centre, Crisis Line
10:30am- Christopher Housing Society
11:30am- Soupiterra
12:30- South Okanagan/Similkameen Brain Injury Society
2pm- City Council, Social Development Advisory Council

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Day 2-Kelowna

As we have said on many occasions our survey of homelessness in BC(which shows 10,580 homeless)is very conservative. Today, in Kelowna, we saw a perfect example of how our numbers are often underestimated. The survey indicated that Kelowna had 279 homeless people but we were told by a staff member at the city that the real number is closer to 500. This comes hot on the heels of Minister Coleman claiming that our figures are inflated.

We also saw an excellent example of community problem solving and innovative and supportive housing at the Willow Hotel. There a private landlord has provided this soon to be demolished building to the Canadian Mental Health Association for winter supportive housing for people with mental health challenges. We spoke with a number of the clients who would otherwise be homeless and heard their reports of how integral the program is to their health. While this program is slated to close at the end of February there are important lessons to be learned from its success.

Tomorrow we travel to Penticton.

Day 2-Kelowna

Itinerary-January 17th, 2008

10am-Community Development Planner-City of Kelowna
11am-1pm- Union Gospel Mission
1pm- Canadian Mental Health, The Willow
2pm- John Howard Society
3pm- NOW Canada Safe Centre
4pm- Mayor Sharon Shepherd, City of Kelowna


This young couple faces the prospects of sleeping in the streets in sub zero weather in Kamloops BC.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kamloops Day 1

The first day of our Okanagan consultation included reports on how serious homelessness is in the Kamloops area, as well as some of the successes service providers and the city have had in their work with homeless people.

We were shocked and saddened to hear that a Kamloops resident who was homeless died within the last few weeks as a result of spending the night in cold weather.

Again and again we are hearing that the creation of additional low rental housing units is only the first step. One city staff member reminded us that improvements for homeless people must be "sustainable". This means two things. First, temporary and emergancy shelter are only short term stop gaps. Second, supports have to be in place on an ongoing basis so that homeless people can be successful in long term housing.

We look forward to our day tomorrow in Kelowna.

Finding Our Way Home: Okanagan-Day 1-Kamloops

Itinerary-January 16th, 2008

9am-Elizabeth Fry Society
10am-RCMP Beat Constables*
11am-Kamloops City Council and staff
12-1pm-Kamloops Food Bank and Outreach Society
2pm-ASK, Kamloops AIDS Society
3pm-Interior Indian Friendship Centre
4pm-Kamloops Youth Safe House

*While this was not on our original schedule we met these officers on the street and had a very productive discussion with them.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Homelessness Declaration


More than 10,500 British Columbians are homeless. This crisis is province-wide. In every city and town homelessness is a shame and an embarrassment.

Thousands of British Columbians are one paycheck away from homelessness; one illness away from homelessness; one family emergency away from homelessness.

Homelessness is not the fault of the homeless. There have always been people in our province who were less privileged than others. There have always been people in BC who have mental health and addictions challenges. But we have never had a crisis of homelessness like the one we face now.

Homelessness results from a lack of affordable housing. It results from wages and social assistance rates which are inadequate. Solving the problem of homelessness in our province is about political will and public policy choices.

BECAUSE children deserve an opportunity to succeed in school and life, and a child’s success is tied to having a stable home,
BECAUSE people should be able to afford housing and still have enough money for groceries and basic necessities,
BECAUSE homeless people are not the cause of homelessness,
BECAUSE everyone in BC deserves a safe, decent place to live,
BECAUSE we support diverse, tolerant and caring communities and reject communities that are divided into haves and have-nots,

• We will do everything we can to protect existing affordable housing units. While many of these require significant upgrading, it’s wrong to renovate them just to raise rents or turn them into expensive condominiums.
• We will oppose the demolition of affordable housing so that it can be replaced with homes accessible only to the wealthy.
• We will work at the local, provincial and federal levels to secure the capital funding needed to build the thousands of units of social housing, co-op housing and affordable housing our province needs.

To sign the petition please click here.


For Immediate Release
Jan. 14, 2008


VANCOUVER - A declaration calling for urgent action to solve the homelessness crisis in B.C. was launched today by New Democrat MLA David Chudnovsky.

“The people of the province are way ahead of the Campbell government when it comes to concern about the homeless,” Chudnovsky, the Opposition Critic for Homelessness, said today. “Signing the declaration will give British Columbians a way to send a message that the current situation is unacceptable.”

The declaration calls for the protection of existing low rent housing units and opposes the demolition of affordable housing so that expensive condominiums can be built. The declaration pledges British Columbians will work to secure the capital funding needed to build the thousands of units of social housing, co-op housing and affordable housing our province needs.

“More than 10,500 British Columbians are homeless,” commented Chudnovsky. “That’s an embarrassment for everyone who lives in our province.

“It’s time for the Campbell government to stop the empty promises, stop the endless excuses and get to work solving the problem.”

The declaration will be distributed across the province and submitted to the legislature later this spring.

Chudnovsky also made public a letter to Rich Coleman, the Minister Responsible for Housing, challenging Coleman’s refusal to accept the enormity of the crisis.

“When my survey showed more than 10,500 homeless in B.C., the Minister said my numbers were inflated. But he refuses to provide his own number. It’s three months since I asked him how many homeless people live in our province.

“Shouldn’t he know the answer? If he’s serious about dealing with the homelessness crisis shouldn’t he at least know how many people are homeless?”

Chudnovsky will be in Kamloops on Wednesday, Kelowna on Thursday and Penticton on Friday continuing his provincial consultation on the issue. He will meet with people who are homeless themselves, service providers and local government officials.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

This man died because he was homeless-Vancouver Sun-January 9th, 2008

On the front lines, an emergency room doctor sees people who would live instead of die -- if they had a place to live

Michael Goodwin, Special to the Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It was 3 a.m on a winter Saturday night and the emergency department was bustling at Vancouver's downtown hospital.

As a resident on call I was attending to a stabbing victim in the trauma bay, someone in the Downtown Eastside who had been stabbed in the back near a pub after closing time. His was not an uncommon story.

Suddenly shouts emanated from the nursing station: "Clear out! Clear the trauma bay! We've got another stabbing! They lost his pulse. ETA five minutes!"

Our first stabbed patient was whisked out of the trauma bay to the only place available for him -- the hallway. We then busied ourselves preparing for the new arrival.

Intravenous bags and lines were opened and primed. Resuscitation equipment was connected and readied. We started to don gowns, gloves and masks in preparation for what would likely be a bloody encounter.

Usually in these situations there is a lull before the patient arrives. Everyone gets ready, and then waits silently for the emergency bay doors to open. Sometimes that waiting seems like forever. This time things happened quickly.

Before we could organize ourselves, the bay doors were suddenly bursting open and the paramedics were wheeling our victim towards us on a stretcher.

One paramedic was "bagging" the patient -- providing breaths via a bag and mask attached to an oxygen canister. A second paramedic was steadily compressing the victim's chest to try to maintain circulation of blood. A third was pushing and steering the stretcher while simultaneously barking out a summary of the story.

Like one of the street performers at Granville Island, he shouted his oration to all of us: "Homeless man stabbed in the anterior mid-chest. Vital signs were lost at the scene. CPR was begun immediately." In other words, this man had died out on the street right in front of them only moments ago and now we were all fighting to get him back.

I couldn't help but look down at the man and his unsightly appearance with pity. His ragged plaid shirts, worn in layers to keep out the winter cold, were now completely soaked in blood. His long unkempt hair, his tattered pants, worn-out shoes and his calloused, dirt-filled hands all confirmed the orator's broadcast that he was homeless.

For the remainder of the article please visit

Vancouver Sun-Letter to the Editor-December 28th 2007

Housing project for homeless is 'nonsense'
Published: Friday, December 28, 2007
Re: Housing is real 2010 legacy; Twelve-site housing project is underway, Dec. 21

The claim that a 12-site housing project is underway to deal with homelessness in Vancouver is nonsense. The city has agreed to provide 12 sites it owns and to take advantage of the province's offer to help fund pre-development costs. But housing costs money and there isn't one dollar of capital funding in place. Even if all of these 12 are completed some day -- and the claim that half of them will be finished by 2010 strains credulity -- they won't even begin to solve the current problem: 2,300 homeless people in Vancouver. The city needs to prevent current affordable units from disappearing as they have been week after week, and the province needs to stop talking and commit the resources necessary to actually deal with the problem. And everyone should remember that 80 per cent of the province's homeless people live outside the City of Vancouver.

David Chudnovsky
MLA Vancouver-Kensington
Opposition critic for homelessness