Homelessness plan needed said Auditor General

The B.C. government lacks a comprehensive plan to deal with the problem of homelessness, Auditor General John Doyle has found in a report released this morning.

“We expected government to have an understanding of the causes and patterns of homelessness and to be aware of where key gaps in programs and services existed,” read Doyle’s report, entitled Homelessness: Clear Focus Needed.

“Instead, we found that government lacks a clear profile of the homeless population,” he added.

In his report, Doyle recommends that the government:

– establish a clear direction for addressing homelessness;

– ensure it has comprehensive information about the problem;

– look at the breadth of programs available and take steps to ensure people leaving health care services, child protection and correctional facilities are not homeless upon release, and;

– improve its reporting on the results of its work.

The report follows an announcement earlier this week by Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman that he was taking further action to integrate services and ensure accountability.

In a written response to the report, the Ministry of Housing and Social Development took issue with some of the findings.

“British Columbia is widely acknowledged as a leader in Canada for its aggressive and innovative approaches to addressing homelessness,” read the response.

“Our approach goes beyond providing shelter by providing housing with support services to address the root causes of chronic homelessness,” it added.

Te ministry listed a variety of initiatives, including: homeless outreach programs; shelters that are open 24 hours per day; the acquisition of more than 4,000 units of supportive housing since 2004, and; the acquisition of 45 buildings with about 2,000 units of affordable housing.

Government lacks clear profile of population
Jonathan Fowlie
Vancouver Sun, 2009.03.05

Photograph by Ward Perrin Vancouver Sun