Homeless count higher: Expert

The number of homeless Aboriginal people living on Vancouver streets islikely higher than can be counted, according to the executive directorof Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice services.

The number of homeless Aboriginal people living on Vancouver streets is likely higher than can be counted, according to the executive director of Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice services.

A 2005 study found that 34 per cent of Vancouver’s homeless are Aboriginal, a group that makes up only two per cent of the city’s population.

But Christine Smith-Parnell says those numbers don’t reflect “hidden homelessness.”

“(Aboriginal) people naturally take in families. We help others out until they can stand on their own so there are a lot of families that have two or three (other) families living in their apartments.”

With the “hidden homeless” Smith-Parnell estimates that the number of homeless doesn’t number 34 per cent but probably lies more along the 44 to 45 per cent mark.

Smith-Parnell said that the lack of affordable housing and high rent are contributing factors.

David Eddy, executive director of the Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS), which houses urban Aboriginal population, agrees that funding needs to be increased.

“The federal government got out of supporting housing in 1993 and (the housing society’s) last family project was completed in 1994,” he said.

The VNHS has 15 buildings with about 1,000 tenants and they are “bursting at the seams,” with waiting lists of more than 1,000 and waiting periods of more than 10 years.

 
 
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