COVID-19 and Ending Homelessness in BC

May 14, 2020

TO:
Honourable John Horgan
Premier of British Columbia
PO Box 9041 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9E1

Honourable Shane Simpson
Minister of Social Development & Poverty Reduction
PO Box 9058 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Honourable Selina Robinson
Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing
PO Box 9056 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Honorable Judy Darcy
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
PO Box 9056 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Honorable Adrian Dix
Minister of Health
PO Box 9050 Stn Prov Govt.
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9E2

CC:
Dr. Bonnie Henry
Provincial Health Officer
PO Box 9648 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9P4

We encourage the Province to provide housing options to all unhoused residents of BC. Current efforts only offer to accommodate a small proportion of people who are homeless. Based on the most recent provincial updates, some 2,700 units have been acquired across British Columbia. But by even a conservative estimate there are over 8,000 homeless people in BC, and likely double that number[1].

We also want to underline that there is a wide variety of needs and experiences of homelessness in BC and meeting those needs will require a variety of approaches and housing options. Some people will want to move to hotels quickly, and others will not. Moving to hotels must be voluntary, free from any perception or potential for coercion. To ensure dignity for those who are unable to move inside, we refer to the Homeless Encampment Protocol issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing April 30, 2020[2]. Further, the UN Guidance for Protection of Homeless persons makes clear that while housing options are being mobilized, encampments should not be displaced.

With a potential second wave of COVID-19 expected to hit this fall[3], housing for all must be a central part of preparatory public health measures. Group settings such as homeless shelters and single room occupancy hotel rooms cannot adequately provide the space and support staff needed for physical distancing and regular hand washing. Additionally, COVID-19 has caused financial distress for a large number of renters. Moratoria on evictions are a positive step, but measures to eliminate rent and utility debt will still be needed to prevent mass eviction as the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

We call upon the province to release a plan this June which details how to permanently house all unhoused residents of British Columbia.

Specifically, across BC, we call on provincial authorities to:

- Rapidly provide housing options to all unsheltered and inadequately housed residents of BC and provide wraparound health care and support services for those who need it. Hotel and housing support workers should be unionized or offered the same protection as unionized workers, including health and safety protections.

- Focus economic recovery stimulus spending on building a robust non-market housing system. Within six to 12 months, provide permanent non-market housing[4] with health and social care as needed, to everyone in BC experiencing homelessness - including women, trans and gender diverse people, including those who are escaping domestic violence and including those who do sex work - by converting hotels, motels, apartments, office buildings, and any other appropriate properties into non-market housing, as well as building permanent, high-quality, energy-efficient homes affordable to people who live on income support and minimum wage jobs.

- Cancel rent debt that has been incurred as a result of lost incomes, and suspend rent for the remainder of the state of emergency. Prevent a mass eviction, foreclosure and homelessness crisis by freezing mortgage payments, extending the ban on evictions and rent increases, and connecting rent control to the unit instead of the tenant.

- Maintain and expand the interim guidance (Risk Mitigation: in the Context of Dual Public Health Emergencies) issued by the province of British Columbia and the BC Centre on Substance Use to enable an ongoing safe supply to combat the provincial public health emergency, declared in 2016, fuelled by the continuing overdose epidemic.

- Maintain the $300 increase in income-support programs for low-income people and people with disabilities and pursue further increases to allow people to live with dignity.

Respectfully,

Nicole Chaland, Housing Researcher and Advocate
Doug King & Emily Rogers, Together Against Poverty Society
Fiona York, Carnegie Community Action Project
Chris Livingstone, Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction
Ishmam Bhuiyan & Gabby Doebeli COVID-19 Coming Together Vancouver
Thea Baines, UBC Social Justice Centre
Jean Swanson, Vancouver City Councillor
Josh Irvine & Mark Willson, SOLID Outreach
Bernie Pauly, RN, Ph.D
Katrina Jensen, AVI Health and Community Services
Rachel Phillips, Peers Victoria Resources Society
Sara Sagai & Neil Vokey, Vancouver Tenants Union
Sarah Potts, Sharmarke Dubow & Ben Isitt, Victoria City Councillors
Wendy Pederson, Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative
Andrea Pinochet-Escudero, frontline shelter support worker, Vancouver



[1]The 2018 Report on Homeless Counts in B.C. counted 7,655 people. This number was admittedly a vast undercount because, among other issues, it did not include communities representing 15% of B.C’s population, it severely underestimated the “hidden homeless”, and homelessness has continued to rise since the count took place (The Homelessness Services Association of BC, Urban Matters, and BC Non-Profit Housing Association (2018). 2018 Report on Homeless Counts in B.C. Prepared for BC Housing. Burnaby, BC: Metro Vancouver at pp. 11-12, 43). A 2001 study in the United States found that the number of people who access shelter in a given year is 2.5 to 10.2 times the number present on any given night (Stephen Metraux et al., Assessing Homeless Population Size Through the Use of Emergency and Transitional Shelter Services in 1998: Results from the Analysis of Administrative Data from Nine US Jurisdictions, 116 Pub. Health Rep. 344, (2001) at pp.**). A study in Vancouver (Eberle, et al., 2009) estimated 3.5 people were considered to be hidden homeless for every one who was homeless: https://www.homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/SOHC2013_execsummary_web.pdf
[2]A National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada www.make-the-shift.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/A-National-Protocol-for-Homeless-Encampments-in-Canada.pdf
[3] www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-coronavirus-covid-19-second-wave-fall-1.5542088
[4] It is an ambitious and viable timeline. Onsite assembly for modular housing is 3 months, allowing 9 months for site selection and professional services. Purchase and conversion of existing buildings could also be completed in a 6 - 12 month timeframe.

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ORGANIZATIONAL ENDORSEMENTS
Victoria Tenant Action Group
Vancouver Tenants Union
COVID-19 Coming Together Vancouver
Peers Victoria Resources Society
Social Environmental Alliance
Leadnow
Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society
AVI Health and Community Services
Vancouver Catholic Worker
UBC Social Justice Centre
COVID-19 Coming Together
Vancouver and District Labour Council
UBC Women's Centre
Common Energy UBC
SFU Community Economic Development
Pivot Legal Society
Bridge For Health
SOLID Outreach
Hepatitis C Education and Prevention Society
BC Ecosocialists
Autistics United BC
TSM Co-Op
FEED Engineering Inc.
Vancouver Ecosocialist Group
West Coast LEAF
Oakland’s community association
Equity in Palliative Approaches to Care
Fairfield United Church
PACE Society
La Boussole Centre Communautaire Société
UBCC350
Single Mothers’ Alliance BC
Hives for Humanity
Together Victoria
Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT)
Our Time Vancouver
Disability Alliance BC
BC Persons With Disabilities COVID-19 Committee
Mom2Mom Child Poverty Initiative
ŚW̱,ȻENEṈITEL
First United Church Community Ministry Society
Living & Lived Experience Of Homelessness Network
Kamloops Chapter, The Council of Canadians
The BC Society of Transition Houses
Victoria Native Friendship Centre
Together Against Poverty Society
The Backpack Project Victoria BC
Green Antler Press


INDIVIDUAL ENDORSEMENTS
Fiona York
Sonia Theroux
Joey Doyle, Lawyer
Andrea Pinochet-Escudero, frontline shelter support worker, Vancouver
Derrick O'Keefe, author and activist, Vancouver
Sarah Bjorknas, library worker
Bruce Elkin
Desta Rabin
Marv Wheale
Ellen Woodsworth
Nicolas Stulberg
Pablo Gandara Vazquez
Andrea Clark
Natalie Payer
Max Hiscox
Stefanie Hardman
Timothy Ekhlassi
Sean Gilmour
Noah Zeibdawi
Jerry Whalley
Dawson Franks
Stephen Von Sychowski
Riaz Behra
Aidan Fortier
Ann Chaland
Timmi Klassen
Suzette Cullen
Aleksandar Arsovski
Lane Foster
Daniel Ferguson
Daisy Couture
Jay Cottrell
Frederick Hawley
Brian Cochrane
Erik Jovanovic
Anna Alger
Diana Bartosh
Evan Morien
Elaine Carol
Rahat Kurd
Christina Gower
Dianne Varga, housing advocate, Nanaimo
Maria Melititskaya
Ben Ger
Niki Najm-Abadi
Nandita Sharma
Gabe Boothroyd
Megan Yakabuski
Phil Dupasquier
Christine Vickers
Christine Abrams
Derek Sahota
Eleanor Hughes
Kate Tauber
Christina Chant
Christine Boyle, Vancouver City Councillor
Eleanor Reardon
Timothy Chi
Carman Benoit
Tim Kennelly
Rachel White
Don Walchuk
Eleanor Wearing
Liz Blackwood
Mina Parry
Kevin Millsip
Paola Ardiles
Nina Jankovic
Sandy Bauer
Duncan Lock
Justina Salas, frontline Aboriginal Housing support worker , Burnaby, New Westminster, Tri-cities
Shelley Fleming, caring citizen
Michal Rozworski
Jacob Fischer-Schmidt
Delphine Baumer
Sean Dhanda
Nicole Johnston
Enda Brophy
Sofia Clayton
Kath Chambers
Michelle Gautreaux
Justin Ho
Jeremy Stone, SFU Community Economic Development
Rachel Hester
Jane Sterk
Emma Gunn
Michael Scott RN
Douglas Laird
Alysha McFadden
Saige Patti
Laura Track
Niki Pankratz
Ascher Goodman
Len Guenther
Ascher Goodman
Kristin Street
Lorne Daniel
Kim Mackenzie
Wes Regan
S. T. Anderson
Laura Fraser
Scott Beaumont, Vancouver
Haroon Bajwa
Shari Laliberte
Jaden Dekerf
Kim Collier
Gene McGuckin, Retired past president, CEP Local 1129
Peter Gibbs
Bronwen Coulthard
Robert Malone
Darren John
Nafeesa Alibhai
Esmé Stumborg
Richard Skala; Saferide Attendant
Victoria Laine, Community Support Worker, Penticton
Terry Bridges
Jenn Neilson
Roxanne Hunt
Leona Khong
Sage Anna Rinaldo
Eleanor Hughes
Ryan Hong
Andrea Papineau
Tara Havig
Catherine Etmanski
Patricia Vardon, Anti - Poverty Advocate
Sarah Town
Mark Grill
Al Etmanski
Dr. Jim Stanford
Gesow Azam
Clara Sismondo
Irene Duthion
Alexandra Magas
Mehera Salah
Seraph Bao
Njoki Mburu
Jordan Lelievre
Barb Parrott, Vancouver School Board Trustee
Susan Z. Martin
Camryn Traa
Lesley McCannell
Danielle Traa
Soren Henrich
Sandi Koop
Jancis Wong, Social Work student
Frances Grunberg
Gemma Norton-Wilks
Lucia Park
Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff
Lauren Wilson
Budd Hall
Carol Madsen
MB Page
Lianne Payne
Vivian Ly
Gillie Easdon
Megan Ong
Alexandra Magas
Kevin Voon
Melanie Conn
Kim Russell
Phoebe Ramsay
Hanna Jacobsen
Lauren McLean
Marlee Laval
Christina Zaenker
Chloe Pearson
Shae Perkins, peer education & outreach
Heather McKenzie
Teresa Sankey
Leo Chaland
Neringa Kubiliene
Nadja Jankovic
Chris Bossley
Rachel Cheang
Shideh Javadi
Tamara Schwartzentruber
Art Farquharson, Activist Musician
Bonnie Ross
Linda Yauk
Ann Grant
Oosha Ramsoondar
Tracey Letts
Susan Kensett
Tara Fenwick
Richard Edwards
Patti Haynes
Anna Kemp
Leona Etmanski
Cheryl Farquharson
Dianne Goldberg
Anne Louise Genest
Heather Barclay
Maninder Tennessey
Aaron Hill
Rianne Svelnis
Julia Breese
Peter St Quintin
Katie McDonald
Sarah Strange
Nicola G-Tremblay
Shila Avissa, Registered Social Worker
Danielle LaFrance
Omar Chu
Elise Purdey
Celina Shirakawa
Michael Goldberg
Rebecca Coates
Adi Burton
Brenda Gibson
Lina Moskaleva
Emma Arkell
Jennifer Stewart
Erin McDonald
Susanna Grimes
Matthew Fischer peer navigator, activist
Kelsey Lee
Sydney Hart
Claire Lomas
Nick Be
Stephanie Bentzen
George Berking
Melanie Jeffs
Judy Kwissa
Sam Tuck
Kim Roos
sarah kathleen wilson, RSW & community organizer
Natasja Panchuk
Jackie Hoffart
Helen Vokaty
Murray G. Allen-Brousseau
Gagan Leekha
Samantha Llorente
Susan Shields
Alvaro Moreno
Donna Baines
raj dhaliwal
Susan Henry
joel ornoy
Michelle Marcus
Laura Stannard
Sherri McOuatt
Megan Thom
Don Read
Gayle Read
Joseph Stilwell
Rachael Ash
Sarah Murray
Erin Donald, MSN, RN
Kate Giesbrecht
Fiona MacIntosh
Heather Van Tassel
Parissa Nahachewsky
Michelle Mulder
Jessica Keenan
Parissa Nahachewsky
Rev. Beth Walker
Anna (Ilirjana) Sino
kate potapova
Darby Lynch
Hilary Leighton
Alisha Masongsong
King-mong Chan
Carole Brown
Tori Williamson, Buy Social Canada
Don Shafer
Kenzie Gerrand
Louise Chaynes
Owen Twaies
Charlotte Zesati
Louise Boake
Annie Montague
Sarah Common
Nicole Courvoisier
Margot Leigh Butler
Erin Pritchard
Judy McGuire
Margaret Thompson
Kathleen Ruff
Shea Smith
Reuben Jentink
Hugh Moore
Kyle Empringham
Tiffany Joseph
Bruce Dean
Tyrone Lehmkuhl
Carmen Lansdowne
Kim A. Hines
Coln Cayer
Allison Castley
Liz MacInnis
Tracy White
Lisa Bell
Amrit Randay
Sherry Thompson
Rider Cooey
Shelley Jones
Mandy Catron
Megan Redmond
Angie Clowry
Anita Strong
Brenda Wilson
Joanna Shniad
Gagan Bhatia
Rabaab Khehra
Theresa-Anne Clarke Harter
Patrick Zhang
Zacharie Lauzière-Fitzgerald
Matthew Smedley
Tolulope Adegbehingbe
Shana Hall
Jennifer Therrien
Sharan Gill
Bella You
Benjamin Stewardson RN
Ine Beljaars
Danielle Rosenberg
Olivia Sasson
Kathy Shimizu
Mutya Macatumpag
Jim Hatherly
Georgia Yee, former frontline shelter support worker
Carla Wilks
Elaine Laberge (PhD Candidate, Education) and poverty researcher
Greta Makena Gibson
Kalynka Cherkosh
Ron Rice, Executive Director, Victoria Native Friendship Centre
Michelle Coulombe, Registered Clinical Counsellor
Aiden Sisler
David Atkins
Lisa Hughes
Dr. Arlene Carson
Chloe Makepeace
Cleome Wilkinson
Kim Hardy
Heather Clarke, chair-elect, First United Church Community Ministry Society
shirene a. eslami
Megan johnson
Katarina Ewasechko
Merrell Gerber
stephanie kalacis
Alysson Hall
Athena Affan
Jesse Scharf
Victoria Lum
Matea Kulić
Christopher Reiche Boucher
Kimberly dawn
Hope Schreiber NP
Karen Brooks
Camilla Pierce - Housing Support Worker & Shelter Support Worker
Naythan Vogt
Sue Powell
Rita Schreiber
Niki Ottosen
Hannah Dawson
Dorothy Wilson
Michelle Bowker
Sandi Shoup
Melissa Shoup
Tara Croft
Sarah Fowler, councillor for village of Tahsis
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