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Vancouver homelessness survey results surprise organizers

Kendall Walters, 24 hours

Vancouverites believe different solutions are needed for aboriginal homeless people than for the homeless population in general, according to a new public opinion survey.

The majority of respondents (58%) indicated they believe affordable housing, coupled with support services, is the best solution to homelessness in the city. However, they think community development supports — such as job training and employment opportunities — are the best way to address aboriginal homelessness.

That leads Patrick Stewart, chair of Vancouver’s Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee, to wonder why affordable housing for aboriginal people isn’t a priority.

He speculates this may be because of false perceptions of the supports available for aboriginal people, such as beliefs that housing, education and even gas, are free for First Nations people.

“There’s a lot of myths out there that need to be dispelled,” he said. “There is a need for education.”

Only 32% of survey respondents indicated they think it’s important services for aboriginal people be culturally appropriate, though numerous studies have found that culturally relevant services are a crucial aspect of addressing the needs of aboriginal people.

This is particularly relevant, according to Stewart, because while aboriginal people make up only 2% of the general population, 27% of homeless people are aboriginal.

The survey also included other findings that surprised the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness, the group that commissioned the poll.

They were particularly interested to learn that one in four Vancouverites know someone who is homeless, or someone who has been homeless in the past five years.

Homelessness was also ranked the third most major issue in the city, following affordable housing and transportation.

Alice Sundberg, co-chair of the regional steering committee, said the intention is for the survey results to serve as a benchmark for the group. She hopes to conduct additional surveys in the future to see if public opinion on the issue changes over time.

The survey ran from Sept. 10 to 12, polling 1,006 randomly selected adults in the Lower Mainland, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.


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