THE Province on Sunday provided an update about ongoing work with its partners to create a comprehensive Downtown Eastside response plan, including 330 new homes for people by the end of June.
“Everyone in the Downtown Eastside deserves a safe, stable and supportive place to call home,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “Over the past several months, we’ve led work with Indigenous, community and government partners to develop a co-ordinated response plan to help people get off the streets and into homes, and make the Downtown Eastside a healthier, safer and more hopeful place for everyone. As safety concerns increase, we are urging people to take up the offers of indoor spaces that are available right now as we continue to open long-term housing.”
In July 2022, the Vancouver Fire Rescue Service issued an order to remove tents and structures along East Hastings Street. Since then, the Province has been working with a variety of partners – including all levels of government, service providers and Indigenous and community organizations – to develop and implement a comprehensive Downtown Eastside response plan.
Through this plan, more than 90 people sheltering outside on East Hastings Street have accepted housing offers and moved into safe homes. The Province is working with partners to open an additional 330 units of housing for people in the Downtown Eastside by the end of June 2023.
There are currently approximately 117 people sheltering outside on East Hastings Street, 70 of whom have expressed a desire for housing. Offers of indoor spaces have been made to a majority of people sheltering outside on East Hastings Street. The number of structures along East Hastings Street has been reduced from 180 to 74 since July 2022.
“The challenges we see in the Downtown Eastside are real and significant- today marks an important step forward,” said Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim. “I know that by working together, we will secure quality housing for our city’s most vulnerable residents and deliver a better future for the Downtown Eastside.”
In anticipation of new homes opening, the Province is working with the City of Vancouver to ensure there is sufficient shelter space to help people move indoors and transition to more permanent housing when it’s available.
Key measures in the response plan include:
* Since July 2022, 139 new or renovated single-room occupancy (SRO) units have opened, with an additional 330 homes to open between now and the end of June, for a total of more than 460 new homes to support people in the Downtown Eastside. The 330 homes opening include the 89 units from the two temporary supportive housing projects opening this spring (1525 and 1535 Western Street and 2142 Ash Street), and a mix of renovated SRO units and other supportive housing units.
* Access and co-ordination will be strengthened for health, mental-health and addictions services for people in the Downtown Eastside, including through:
– establishing a new multidisciplinary team that will work to identify the needs of people facing homelessness so they can quickly access health and social services and support transitions to indoor spaces as a pathway to appropriate housing options;
– expanded addiction treatment options, such as the new Road to Recovery model of addictions care at St. Paul’s Hospital; the first 45 beds are expected to open by fall 2023; and
– expanded mental-health crisis response teams.
* Community organizations will get help to improve and expand services, such as drop-in centres and outreach services.
* A new Community Connections Hub at Orange Hall (341 Gore Avenue) will be established so people have a centralized place to access referrals and information about housing and services.
The plan recognizes that people are better able to access supports when they have safe, stable shelter and their basic needs are met. The plan respects people’s human rights and agency, while protecting their health and safety and minimizing disruption. It also takes an anti-racist, trauma-informed and culturally safe approach, including recognizing the unique history and culture of the Downtown Eastside.
* Since 2018, the Province, through BC Housing, has opened more than 1,400 new supportive homes in Vancouver for people experiencing homelessness, with nearly 900 more underway.
* The Province has also opened more than 800 affordable rental homes since 2018, with more than 3,100 more underway.
To view the Downtown Eastside response plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/