Mayor Gregor Robertson was elected in 2008 on a promise to make street homelessness a priority. At the end of Homelessness Action Week, Metro readers were invited to quiz him on his challenges and the progress to date.

michelle apps, 25, vancouver

Why has (the city) cut so many housing units from the Millennium water development — why aren’t more resources put toward social housing?

“We maintained 252 units as affordable housing, and half of those will be geared towards low-income families and seniors. It would be great to have more but financially we don’t have the resources to do it. That being said, we’re keeping affordable housing at the village because having diverse, inclusive neighbourhoods is important. We don’t want to be a city just for the very rich.”

alicia zigler, 29, vancouver

Why aren’t you dealing with the mental health issues first, before the drug issues?

“It’s not an either/or question — both need to be dealt with, and health issues are a responsibility of the province. Since taking office, we are playing a more aggressive and supportive role by creating a mental health and addictions plan for Vancouver. When you factor in policing, legal and emergency services, it costs the city $28 million a year dealing with people who are mentally ill and have addictions.”

jeff tangsoc, 26, vancouver

During the Olympics it seemed as though the city tried to hide the homeless. Why try to help now if not then?

“I absolutely disagree that the city tried to hide the homeless during the Olympics. I dealt with media from around the world and we were open and upfront about the challenges we face.

In the past two years we’ve made major strides in helping people off the street — we’ve had an almost 50 per cent drop in the number of people sleeping outside, thanks to new shelters and housing. That was before the Olympics and we’re going to keep trying to improve.”

@petequily (metro twitter follower)

Why isn’t mayor asking prov. to invest more in adult & teen #mentalhealth & substance abuse diagnosis & treatment?

“There’s no question we need more provincial investment in mental health and drug treatment. The waiting lists are far too long.

One of the best stories from the past year is the At Home project — now 100 people who were both homeless and mentally ill are getting 24-7 care and housing through a partnership we have with the federal government. We need a lot more of these types of programs.”

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