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MLA’S CORNER: Better supports needed for vulnerable British Columbians

Province saw a 75 per cent increase in deaths among homeless population

Last week, I was shocked and saddened to read the latest report from the BC Coroners Service.

The report examined the deaths of people experiencing homelessness in B.C. in 2021, and it revealed that our province saw a 75 percent increase in deaths among the homeless population.

It’s a deeply troubling piece of information, and one that should spark outrage and action to ensure the safety of all British Columbians.

Many of these deaths were found to be the result of the toxic drug crisis that is plaguing so many B.C. communities. For others, the cause of death was not quite as clear.

But one thing is certain — we are not doing enough to support our most vulnerable.

As we know from last year’s homeless count, B.C. recently saw an 11.5 percent increase in people experiencing homelessness, despite the current government’s promises to improve affordability and build more affordable and complex care housing.

The lack of progress from government is putting more lives at risk, and far too often, it is vulnerable British Columbians who end up paying the price.

Instead of words of sympathy, people in our communities need to see action to make lasting change. Measures must include increasing the supply of housing across the entire spectrum, full wrap-around supports for those suffering from mental health and addiction issues, as well as steps to improve affordability and keep our streets safe.

These actions will be especially important in rural B.C., where there are fewer existing supports for those experiencing homelessness, and where climate and geographic realities put people at greater risk. It is challenging enough to be unhoused when it is warm outside, but it is genuinely life-threatening when it is -20 with a foot of snow on the ground.

No matter where in B.C. you live, it’s clear we need to do more for our most vulnerable. Government must confront this reality and work to ensure that all British Columbians have access to the care, support, and housing they need.

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