Mayor eyes res­i­dency re­quire­ment for hous­ing

Times Colonist - - Island / B.c. - LIND­SAY KINES

Peo­ple with­out homes who have lived in the cap­i­tal re­gion for a year or more should be given higher pri­or­ity for hous­ing than those who re­cently moved here, says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

In a mo­tion go­ing to com­mit­tee of the whole on Thurs­day, Helps and three city coun­cil­lors rec­om­mend that a one-year res­i­dency re­quire­ment be added to the list of criteria that’s used when as­sess­ing peo­ple for hous­ing.

The cur­rent process ad­min­is­tered by B.C. Hous­ing, Is­land Health and the Cap­i­tal Regional District al­ready gives pri­or­ity to those over the age of 55, the chron­i­cally home­less and Indigenous peo­ple who are dis­pro­por­tion­ately rep­re­sented in home­less­ness counts, the mo­tion says.

Helps and coun­cil­lors Jeremy Love­day, Char­layne Thorn­ton-Joe and Mar­i­anne Alto take no is­sue with the ex­ist­ing criteria, although they think the age range should be broad­ened.

But they ar­gue that a new res­i­dency re­quire­ment is jus­ti­fied given re­search show­ing the high per­cent­age of peo­ple with­out homes who have been here for a year or more.

The 2020 Point in Time Home­less Count and Hous­ing Needs Sur­vey re­leased last week found that least 1,523 peo­ple were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness in Greater Victoria on the night of March 11.

Of the to­tal, 84 per cent had been in the re­gion for a year or more, while 12 per cent said they had been here less than a year and four per cent didn’t know or did not pro­vide an an­swer.

“There is a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that in­di­vid­u­als ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness in Greater Victoria are not local to the re­gion and have moved to the com­mu­nity re­cently,” states the re­port, re­leased by the Cap­i­tal Regional District in partnershi­p with the Com­mu­nity So­cial Planning Coun­cil and the Greater Victoria Coali­tion to End Home­less­ness. “Sur­vey par­tic­i­pants shared im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion to counter this as­sump­tion.”

The re­port found that 42 per cent of re­spon­dents had lived in the re­gion five years or longer, while 22 per cent said they have been here their en­tire lives.

Helps said the re­port de­bunks the no­tion that large num­bers of peo­ple with­out homes are mov­ing here from across the coun­try.

But she still thinks it’s im­por­tant to send a sig­nal that the re­gion in­tends to look after its com­mu­nity mem­bers first, es­pe­cially since other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties al­ready have res­i­dency re­quire­ments.

“There’s no rea­son for us in the Cap­i­tal Regional District not to also have a res­i­dency re­quire­ment,” she said.

“Peo­ple are free to move back and forth across the coun­try. It is a free coun­try and mo­bil­ity is a hu­man right. At the same time, there are not enough resources to take care of the peo­ple who are al­ready here.”

Diana Gib­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Com­mu­nity So­cial Planning Coun­cil, said she’s glad to see the Point in Time Count data help­ing in­form pol­icy.

But she said that pri­or­i­tiz­ing hous­ing by choos­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent groups of vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple “re­ally shows the big­ger chal­lenge, which is that we just don’t have enough so­cial pur­pose-built hous­ing to ad­dress the need.”

“We know in the study it showed that there were youth who were home­less. It showed that there were fam­i­lies, and fam­i­lies with chil­dren. So do we pri­or­i­tize se­niors or a wider age group? Do we pri­or­i­tize chronic home­less­ness? Do we pri­or­i­tize peo­ple who’ve been liv­ing in the re­gion? So that is an ap­proach that re­ally does high­light for us the need.”

Ju­lian Daly, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Our Place So­ci­ety, said it’s rea­son­able to give pri­or­ity to those who have suf­fered from home­less­ness longer than oth­ers given its neg­a­tive im­pacts on a per­son’s men­tal and phys­i­cal health.

“That said — and I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to say this — ev­ery­one needs shel­ter,” he said. “It shouldn’t be that those that have been here less than a year shouldn’t get shel­ter of some sort or other. And I don’t mean a tent in Bea­con Hill Park. I mean a cot or a mat in a night shel­ter to be­gin with or a space in tran­si­tional hous­ing.

“Ev­ery­one should have ac­cess to that at the very least.”

B.C. Hous­ing said in a state­ment that it’s aware of the mo­tion and, should it pass, wel­comes the op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss it.

DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps: “There’s no rea­son for us not to have a res­i­dency re­quire­ment.”

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