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Vancouver homeless count appears political: Coleman

The City of Vancouver's release of homelessness numbers last week was questionable, said Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman.

Last week Vancouver released figures that found the overall number of homeless people in the city had risen 12 percent in the last two years but the number living on the streets had gone down thanks to an increase in the number of shelters, the Tyee reported.

The city stands to lose seven of those shelters when provincial funding ends April 30. “Overnight, these closures will add approximately 500 people to those sleeping on the streets of Vancouver,” said a memo by city manager Penny Ballem.

“I'm not commenting on anything the City of Vancouver says,” Coleman said yesterday regarding Ballem's memo. “They know they have some options in front of them we've offered them. They're choosing to negotiate through the press and I'm not going to do that.”

In the past when shelters have closed the province has helped people find housing, he said, noting there will be an announcement later this week. “I'm really confident this is a tempest in a tea pot and by the end of this week the tempest will go away.”

Coleman also criticized the city's count, saying it doesn't cover as broad an area as the province's counts.

“The methodology for this count wasn't according to how we would have done it or the timing we would have done it,” he said. “It's their count. Some people think they did it just to try to put pressure on me, and that doesn't work.”

The province does its counts every three years and the next one is scheduled for 2011, Coleman said.

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

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