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



Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on this website and nothing makes me angrier than the homeless people I see living in our streets.

You see, for close to 9 years from the time I was 13 till I was 22, I was one of them. Having this as a part of my personal background, I am fully aware of why this situation exists, and to be blunt, this situation isn't created simply through a lack of funding, but because of a fundamental lack of tolerance and support for the diversity of human ambition and lifestyle choices.

You see, although I was homeless for those 9 years, I spent very little of that time without a warm, dry comfortable place to call home.

Shortly after I was 13, I ran away from an abusive home situation. In 1971 I found a place to live beside Stanley Park, in a dirty ugly crime ridden shanty town of squatters that was called Mud City and Peoples Park. I am sure it was an eye sore to the good citizens of Vancouver. There was open drug use and even some violence, but it was a heck of a lot safer than sleeping under a bridge or in a door way and there was always enough people close by, to offer the weakest and most vulnerable some degree of protection and support.

Gosh I remember Safeway actually began delivering it's garbage to us rather than have us come to them to crawl through the big bin out in back in search of goodies like dated bread, cheese and over ripe fruit.

The shacks people had built were small and mostly made from junk people collected, but they were dry and heated by wood heaters they were warm and offered some degree of protection, privacy and an opportunity to create a bit of a life and a sense of identity.

I was offered an "apartment" someone else had built under the stage. It was only about 4 and 1/2 feet tall under there, but it was sheltered and had carpet on the floor and walls, and a door. It was a relatively safe place and maybe cost someone with some scavenging ability $20 to build.

Shortly after I turned 14, I learned about a squatter community on Sombrero Beach. It was 1972, and there was about 60 people living down there in 20 cabins people had built on the beach. These cabins were small, never bigger than 300 square feet, and they were built from nothing but a frame of scavenged driftwood, partially sheathed in hand split cedar shakes, and covered in clear 6 ml plastic. With a small air tight wood stove these houses were entirely adequate to the families who lived in them, often with small children. The people I still know from there look back on those times as one of the best times in our lives.

Not that everything was good there. There was some serious alcohol abuse, and a couple violent alcoholics, some drug use, and from time to time some very strange people who came through, but generally there was a strong enough core community to effectively respond to these people, and prevent them from doing too much damage.

One fellow had full blown psychosis lived there for years. He was waiting for Mount Baker, which he thought was a "indestructible vehicle" or a UFO to come and take him away. In the summer he got a dark tan on his front because that is where he thought his solar battery panels were and his back stayed chalk white because he believe his transmission was there and had to be kept cool. The thing is, he was crazy as a jay bird, but he had his own cabin and all he had to do was find firewood. I think social services provided him with grocery vouchers or something, as he wasn't starving.

The ugly fact of the matter is, the reason there are so many homeless people is because of intolerance.

Our society provides square holes and if people won't fit into them they are seen as somehow defective and deserving of being out cast.

This is just wrong.

As much as people who maintain the status quo have a value to society, so too do those who deviate from it.

It would cost so little money to provide some basic support services to a vacant lot where people were allowed to squat. A few trailers set up as showers, toilets, and a laundry, a couple trailers as central gathering places which could serve as a community kitchen, and counseling if needed, or a place to get together and learn skills, and a bit of tolerance for people living in shacks, vans, buses and old trailers is all that would really be needed. The acute part of the homeless problem could be solved in less than a month. And yes some people with drug and alcohol problems would also need to be tolerated and supported and encouraged to make healthier choices. People who for one reason or another don't fit in don't deserve to be punished and pushed out into the cold because who they are doesn't fit with societies social norms. What I am suggesting isn't as perfect as some people may wish for, but if any of you spend a week on the street with the homeless community, you would have to agree what I am suggesting is a vast improvement to sleeping in a card board box under the over hang of a building.

The only reason this isn't happening is because society is choosing to punish people who can't or won't fit in, rather than supporting them to find what unique gift they might have to contribute or being willing to allow them to create a place in society where our misfits are simply allowed to do things their own way.

I have had the ability to provide a more regular home for myself the past 25 years, but that was mostly just my good luck, and I still have some PTSD from what happened during some of the times I didn't. I still have nightmares of finding myself on the street with no money and no way home.

I get really upset that people are still being forced to live through this nightmare because of other people intolerance.

Anonymous said...

Dear David,

Glad to hear you're the critic for this issue. I am wondering, however, when the NDP are going to start talking about the barriers to getting on welfare and how that's caused most of the homelessness we see today. Even if they built hundreds of social housing units, most of the homeless wouldn't qualify because they have no income. They've either not been able to navigate the Liberals onerous process of getting welfare or have being kicked off for one specious reason or another.

So let's talk about the real issue here.