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Coleman insists on measuring aid, not need

Talking with reporters this morning about changes to his responsibilities, Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman could say how many people the government has helped find housing, but not how many more may need help.

“In the last two years, 4,600 people who were previously homeless in B.C. have been housed,” he said, including 2,600 in the last year. “4,600 people's lives have changed, and about 80 percent plus of those people are still housed today.”

Asked how many people still need housing, he said, “We'll see what our homeless counts do this year. I would expect they would be down.”

But over a year ago Coleman did offer a number. "The estimate I have from B.C. Housing is that between 4,500 and 5,500 are homeless at any given time in B.C.," he told the Tyee on Jan. 22, 2008.

Given Coleman's numbers, ignoring the fact that while some people find homes others are losing theirs, one might expect the number of people homeless in B.C. to have halved since last year.

That hasn't happened, said NDP homelessness and mental health critic, Jenny Kwan.

“Street homelessness, under this government's watch, under Gordon Campbell's watch, has increased over 360 percent,” she said. “There are 10,000 to 15,000 people living on the streets in British Columbia today. All you need is walk outside in every neighbourhood and you'll see people who are homeless.”

Those numbers come from a health ministry report, she said.

“The homelessness crisis was created by Gordon Campbell,” she said. “What we need in addressing the homelessness crisis is not that complicated. We actually need to build housing.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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