Vancouver Mayor urges Premier to appoint new homelessness czar

WITH cold and wet weather upon us and mounting COVID-19 cases, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Tuesday urged Premier John Horgan to appoint a new minister to oversee and coordinate shelter provision and services for Vancouver’s most vulnerable.

“Last spring, Premier Horgan appointed Minister Shane Simpson to coordinate help for Vancouver’s most vulnerable neighbours, especially in Oppenheimer Park and the Downtown Eastside, and Minister Simpson did an incredible job,” said Stewart.

The Provincial Vulnerable Population Working Group was struck by the Premier last April to identify, assess and address the immediate challenges faced by five specific groups—people living on the street, people experiencing homelessness living in encampments, shelter residents, tenants of private single-residence occupancies and tenants in social and supportive housing.

In addition to the Social Development and Poverty Reduction minister, the group includes ministers and representatives from the ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Mental Health and Addictions, Children and Family Development, Health, Public Safety and Solicitor General, Finance, and Attorney General.

Stewart also noted that the federal government and City of Vancouver funds he has secured for rapid housing projects need signed provincial agreements for wrap-around services by the end of the month. “We have more than $81-million ready to help house our most vulnerable neighbours, all we need now is a new minister to oversee the province’s contribution and help us get services into place to tackle the dual health crises of COVID-19 and overdoses,” he said.