St. Andrew's-Wesley Homelessness and Mental Illness Action Group

October 16, 2007 12:00 ET

St. Andrew's Wesley Homelessness and Mental Health Action Group-End Homelessness Now Public Forum: Getting the "Chronically Homeless" Off the Streets

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Oct. 16, 2007) - On any given night, there are over 3,000 homeless people on the streets in Vancouver. They include runaways, teens, single adults, couples and families. They are living there, either temporarily or long-term, for any number of reasons. Tragically, far too many of these people have fallen through the cracks of the existing system. And from 2003 to 2005, there has been almost a 300% increase in the number of homeless people living full time on the street as opposed to emergency shelters. While we do nothing, the problem has been growing by almost 30% a year.

A free public forum dedicated to finding solutions to ending chronic
homelessness in our city will be held at St. Andrews Wesley Church (corner of Burrard & Nelson) in Vancouver at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 15th, 2007. The goal of the forum is to raise awareness of this growing crisis in our city and to look at ways it can be addressed with real targets, real action plans and real accountability.

Guest speakers will include Ms. Heather Lyons, Homeless Program Manager for the City of Portland, Bureau of Housing and Community Development and Mr. Ed Blackburn, Deputy Director of Central City Concern, an agency that has been working with homeless adults and families in the Portland metro area for almost 30 years.

Forum moderator will be Dr. Nancy Hall, the former Mental Health Advocate for the Province of B.C.

In 2005, Portland introduced a 10-year plan to end homelessness. This
10-year plan focuses primarily on chronically homeless people mostly
single adults who have been homeless for a year or more. These are people who are typically the most troubling part of the homeless population, as they often suffer from addiction, untreated mental illness, or disabilities. They are people who are living in places defined as not fit for human habitation.

In the first two years of its 10-year plan, the number of chronically
homeless people in Portland has decreased dramatically. In total, there has been a 13% overall reduction in the numbers of homeless in general and a 70% reduction in the number of chronically homeless over two years.

Other achievements included 407 homeless families with children housed, 1,015 households prevented from becoming homeless and a 35% reduction in waiting lists and turn-away counts for shelters.

The Portland 10-year Plan is built on 3 principles:

- Focus on the most chronically homeless populations

- Streamline access to existing services

- Concentrate resources on services that offer measurable results

At Portland's Central City Concern, they have a supportive housing solution with an annual operating budget of over $27 million. 70% of the community of over 1,300 units is alcohol and drug free and a detox center is integrated into its intake system. To address the problem of homelessness at its roots, Central City Concern offers supportive housing to people with special needs.

These special needs include: recovering from alcohol and/or drug addiction, diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, suffering from mental illness, on parole or probation. All of these factors can significantly affect a person's homelessness.

The Forum will highlight these two examples of the Portland experience and explore how they and other solutions might work in our city to solve the problem of chronic homelessness in Vancouver.

About Heather Lyons

Heather Lyons is the Homeless Program Manager for the City of Portland, Bureau of Housing and Community Development's 10-year plan to end homelessness. She leads a team that manages over $10 million dollars in local and federal funding for homeless programs and is implementing a homeless information system for a three-county area that has over 600 users. The team is also engaging the larger civic and corporate community in efforts to end homelessness in Portland.

About Ed Blackburn

Ed Blackburn is Deputy Director of Central City Concern, an agency that has been working with homeless adults and families in the Portland metro area for almost 30 years. Prior to Mr. Blackburn's work at Central City Concern, he served as the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Manager for the City of Portland. In this, he initiated and assisted in the adoption of Community Policing by the Police Bureau, resulting in significant decrease in street prostitution and drug houses in this community.

About Dr. Nancy Hall

Dr. Hall was B.C.'s first appointed Mental Health Advocate. For three years she was responsible for delivering the Advocate's Report to the Minister of Health on acceptable and uniform levels of mental health care standards throughout the province. Nancy currently works as an evaluation consultant for mental health programs and also sits on the B.C. Mental Health Act Review Board.

Public Costs of Homelessness

While costs vary dramatically by a case-by-case basis, the average public cost of managing one individual on the street is approximately $40,000 per year. This is because homeless people are frequent, if involuntary, users of services such as hospitals, ambulances, jails, emergency shelters and food aid. By contrast, the annual per person cost of a formerly homeless person with a mental illness drops to an average of $28,000 when they are moved to supportive housing and off the street.

Event: End Homelessness Now Public Forum
Date: November 15, 2007
Time: 6:30 p.m. Vancouver Men's Choir performs;
7:00 p.m. Forum begins
Place: St. Andrew's - Wesley United Church,
1012 Nelson St. (corner of Nelson and Burrard)
Vancouver, B.C.

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