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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Three Vancouver emergency shelters close

June 08 2011
Majority of 75 residents rehoused but after eviction


Three emergency shelters have closed in the Canadian city of Vancouver after a wave of Government cuts. Housing activists had threatened to erect tent cities in protest to the closures in defiance of a recent bylaw prohibiting people from erecting tents on city property. Despite this threat, a series of high-profile protests and petitions, the shelters - which accommodated around 75 people - closed in April.

It is thought that the majority of their residents were re-housed. Campaigners argued that the shelters - Cardero, Howe Street and Fraser - were lifelines for homeless people in a city that regularly experiences sub-zero winters.

On closure, a group of residents staged a sit-in protest at the Fraser shelter and refused to leave, but were eventually evicted. Fraser resident Tera Peters said the shelter was a relief from trying to find somewhere to hide and sleep on the streets. She said: "I’m tired of hiding in cubby holes during the day.

"At least I’ve got somewhere to eat, somewhere to sleep, somewhere to make sure I’m OK - and the staff do."

The Housing Ministry defended the closures by saying the shelters were only ever opened as temporary winter housing and that all residents were offered housing. They also said the cost of temporary shelters was more than double that of a permanent ones.

Sam Rainbooth, spokesman for the agency managing the closures, BC Housing said: "The province is offering housing assistance to the approximately 75 people remaining at the three shelters."

But Kat Norris, from the indigenous action movement, said that closing the shelters gave out the wrong message. She said: "Closing the shelters says that the government doesn't care about their condition, but Vancouver has a chance here to do the right thing."

There are plans to build more than 1,500 new supportive housing units for those who are homeless or at risk of being so, with 570 of these set to be open by the end of the year.

According to the 2010 homeless count, the number of homeless people in Vancouver has increased by nine per cent since 2008, from 1,576 to 1,715. The count shows that the homeless continue to be disproportionately Aboriginal, older and in poor health, and that the proportion of homeless staying in shelters is growing.