Wednesday, February 6, 2008

BC HAS WORST RECORD IN COUNTRY ON HOMELESSNESS SPENDING:New Democrats hope meeting of provincial housing ministers will wake up Campbell

VANCOUVER – As B.C.’s Rich Coleman sits face to face with fellow housing ministers from across the country today, he stands out from his colleagues with a clear distinction -- his government is dead last when it comes to investing in affordable housing.

"People are dying on the streets of B.C., and our government spends less money than any other province in the country on providing affordable housing,” said New Democrat homelessness critic David Chudnovsky. "I don’t know how our Housing Minister will be able to look his colleagues in the eye.

“At the very least I hope that Minister Coleman will come out of this meeting and tell Gordon Campbell that B.C. holds a shameful record, and that we need an immediate investment in housing to address the crisis in homelessness that his government has created.”

Chudnovsky noted that Wellesley Institute's 2008 national housing report card, released earlier this week, says, "On a per-person basis, spending ranges from a low of $41 in British Columbia to a provincial high of $256 in Saskatchewan."

"This has very real and tragic consequences,” said Chudnovsky. “Yesterday I visited the alley where a homeless man burned himself fatally last weekend trying to keep warm during a cold winter.

“The Campbell government is tragically unaware of the extent of the homelessness crisis,” he pointed out. “Last week Minister Coleman released his estimate of the number of homeless people in B.C, and it was at least one third of the actual count.”

Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan said she hopes the meeting with housing ministers from other provinces will help the Campbell government understand the gravity of the homelessness crisis.

Kwan noted that according to the Wellesley Institute’s report, the B.C. government promised $130 million in 2001 and so far they've only delivered $39 million - $91 million short of their commitment. "Is it a wonder homelessness has grown so dramatically?’ said Kwan.

"Hopefully Minister Coleman will learn from his colleagues that B.C.’s housing efforts are terribly inadequate," Kwan said. "We are a prosperous province with record surpluses, and it's a disgrace to abandon so many people."

Chudnovsky is in the midst of a province-wide consultation on homelessness, meeting with people who are homeless, front line workers, service providers and local officials. His consultation will take him to the Kootenays later this month.

No comments: