Greater Victoria residents want more done to solve homelessness: survey

By Daniel Palmer - Victoria News

Greater Victoria residents want action on homelessness and the government needs to deliver.

That's the message the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness wants politicians to hear as they move into campaign mode.

"The community awareness is there," said Andrew Wynn-Williams, coalition executive director.

On Wednesday, Wynn-Williams released the results of a survey that shows 84 per cent of Capital Region residents believe affordable housing is the responsibility of the government. More promisingly, nearly 60 per cent of people believe homelessness can be ended.

The survey, completed by R.A. Malatest and Associates, was conducted before the coalition rolled out its "Unacceptable" homelessness campaign in February.

"We need to take the results back to whoever gets elected and say you have both the mandate and responsibility to act," Wynn-Williams said.

More than 1,600 individuals used a Greater Victoria shelter in 2011, according to the coalition's most recent numbers.

While B.C. Housing has been making gains to increase housing options, the province needs to do more, Wynn-Williams said. The Capital Region is also losing out on federal funding compared to other Canadian cities.

"The federal government has just announced they're extending the homelessness partnership strategy, but Victoria will only get about $1.8 million over the next three years," he said.

The cash works out to about $4.50 per person, while Vancouver's funding equals about $9 per person, Wynn-Williams said.

Victoria isn't getting adequate funding because of an "arcane" formula that distributes cash based on city size, not region size, said Murray Rankin, Victoria MP.

"We have 78,000 Victorians, and that's how the money is allocated," he said. "We don't get our fair share."

Wynn-Williams said he'd like to see the federal government distribute funding based on census metropolitan areas, which accounts for the population of the Capital Region.

The survey also asked residents what the primary causes of homelessness are. Most said mental health issues and alcohol and addiction abuse.

"Those are risk factors, but the cause of homelessness is the environment we put those people into," Wynn-Williams said.

High rent combined with low vacancy rates means people on income assistance are still at risk for homelessness, despite receiving some support, he added.

 For full results of the survey, visit victoriahomelessness.ca.

dpalmer@vicnews.com