Vancouver is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the world, but since the city is defined by a gorgeous landscape, mild weather, beautiful architecture, and a vibrant economy, it is not too difficult to understand why so many people want to live here. The region, though, hides an issue that many ignore and that plagues several other Canadian metropolis: homelessness. Metro Vancouver is a regional district comprised of twenty-two municipalities, one electoral area, and one treaty First Nation. Such a diverse environment certainly breeds and attracts complexity. Perhaps this explains why, according to 2017’s Homeless Count Preliminary Data Release, there are 3605 people living on the streets in the region – an increase of 30% from 2014. Homelessness is a complicated problem, and simply moving people into apartments or shelters is not enough to solve it. Instead, it is necessary to acknowledge there are other underlying issues (e.g. addiction, mental health, abuse, and poverty) that need to be addressed for people to maintain long-term housing.
Housing First is an approach to homelessness that focus on moving people into housing as quickly as possible, and subsequently providing them with the necessary services to make sure they will not return to their previous living conditions. These services can take different forms and shapes as they are adapted to the needs of each individual case, and the focus is always in guaranteeing that people do not become homeless again. This is a novel method that goes against the traditional approach of moving people into shelters, then transitioning housing, and eventually get them a permanent place to stay. That is a long, arduous, and often ineffective process. However, since 2014 the Federal Government of Canada has been promoting Housing First as a method of combating homelessness across the nation, and Metro Vancouver has since implemented this strategy. It required that the city’s Homeless Partnering Strategy (HPS) coordinated with shelters and other organizations to spread this methodology and to make it easier for people to transition back into having somewhere to live.
Doubtlessly, homelessness is a rather complicated issue that affects individuals, families, and entire communities. There is no one-size-fits-all solution or shortcuts that could be taken. Thus it is necessary to acknowledge the uniqueness of each case, and tenderly work with people who suffer from homelessness. Housing First is based on the belief that once people have a place to live and the support needed, then they will start taking control over their own lives and striving for a better future.