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Catholic Vancouver Nov. 27, 2018

Catholic, other shelters alarmed by rising seniors homelessness

By Agnieszka Ruck

Seniors represent one-fifth of people living on the streets in Vancouver, according to the 2017 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver. “Homelessness is a huge issue for seniors,” says the director of Catholic Charities Shelter Services. (Unsplash photo)

The number of people aged 55+ living on the streets in Vancouver is high and rising.

In 2014, the Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver found 18 per cent of people sleeping on park benches, in alleys, or in shelters were seniors. Last year, that figure climbed to 21 per cent.

“It is a trend we have been experiencing in our own shelter, seeing a steady uptick in the numbers over the past five years,” said Scott Small, director of Catholic Charities Shelter Services. His organization runs the Men’s Hostel, a shelter with 102 short-term beds and an extreme weather response program.

He said 50 per cent of guests at his shelter are over 55, with many over 65.

“Homelessness is a huge issue for seniors,” said Small. “We have more than you would think: first-time homeless seniors that have worked their whole lives, have pensions, but not enough for housing here in Vancouver, or were ‘renovicted.’”

He said he has been lobbying for a shelter specifically geared toward seniors for years.

“They are a special sub-demographic that needs as much attention as the other recognized categories, like women, families, children, aboriginal, trans, and low-barrier harm-reduction-geared facilities and programs,” he said. “I believe seniors get left out because they are overlooked and less vocal than other populations.”

Celine Mauboules, executive director of the Homelessness Services Association of B.C., says she’s heard an increasing number of stories about seniors on the streets.

“Maybe it’s a senior that’s on a fixed income and has lived in an affordable rental apartment, and the rents go up and all of a sudden they can’t afford it,” she told the Vancouver Sun.

“Or, they go into a hospital for health issues … and by the time they come out, they haven’t paid their rent and have been evicted.”

The Metro Vancouver homeless count also found single-parent families are increasingly represented on the streets. In 2014, there were 88 accompanied children; in 2017, that number rose to 119.

Spokespersons for the Salvation Army and Union Gospel Mission have both said they have noticed the rise in seniors and families relying on their services.