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Vancouver homelessness up 12 per cent since 2008

Vancouver's homeless population has grown by 12 per cent since 2008, according to preliminary results of a citywide homeless census conducted last month.

The March 23, 2010, homeless count identified 1,762 homeless people in B.C.'s largest city. A spring 2008 count using the same methodology and interview questions found 1,576 homeless people.

But the new count also found fewer living on the streets. In 2008, 51 per cent of those surveyed were living on the street, while 49 per cent where living in some sort of shelter. In 2010, only 24 per cent of those surveyed (428 individuals) were living on the street, while 74 per cent (1334 individuals) were living in shelters.

"These results demonstrate the success of reducing street homelessness through temporary shelter programing," wrote City Manager Penny Ballem in a memo sent to council today. "However, the steady rise in homeless individuals also demonstrates the need for the urgent and ongoing development of interim and permanent housing solutions."

The shift toward indoor homelessness was made possible by the aggressive opening of new shelters under Mayor Gregor Robertson, who has promised to end street homelessness in Vancouver by 2015.

The Province has indicated that it will cease funding operations of seven of those new shelters on April 30.

"Overnight, these closures will add approximately 500 people to those sleeping on the streets of Vancouver," Ballem's memo stated.

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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