News Local

Homeless seniors an emerging trend in Metro Vancouver

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

A person sleeps outside on the steps of church in Downtown Eastside,  Vancouver, British Columbia, Tuesday October 9, 2012. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

A person sleeps outside on the steps of church in Downtown Eastside, Vancouver, British Columbia, Tuesday October 9, 2012. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

A growing population of seniors without shelter has the chair of the region’s steering committee on homelessness worried not enough is being done for those in Metro Vancouver retiring with debt, working with fixed incomes and unable to move.

Deb Bryant, who chairs a program where Ottawa matches partnership funding, said Sunday the number of homeless seniors above 65 years had tripled from 2002 to 2011.

The population is growing too, she added, accounting for about 10% of Metro Vancouver’s homeless demographic.

This year, according to the City of Vancouver’s September stats, 19% of its homeless — or 264 people — were older than 55.

The eighth annual Homeless Action Week goes until Oct. 19, this year focusing on the “hidden homeless.”

Bryant said many seniors fall into that category as they don’t currently live on the street, rather they go from place to place. They stay with relatives or in shelters, living on the edge of homelessness.

“It’s just related to economics,” she said. “Seniors are retiring with debt, they’re on fixed incomes while the cost of housing is rising.”

Bryant pointed to figures from taxtips.ca, which notes seniors without income beyond Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement were restricted to a maximum monthly subsidy of $1,286.51.

“Often seniors will have … no way of supplementing that income through work, especially as people age, they’re more likely to have physical or mental disabilities.”

She added what’s needed is more social housing to reduce the amount of time seniors need to be on wait lists before they get help.

 

 

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