Locals Brought Together to Better Understand Homelessness in South Vancouver

Community conversation aimed at discussing solutions to helping homeless in Marpole and surrounding neighbourhoods.

November 23, 2022
South Vancouver residents participating in the UBC Centre for Community Engaged Learning conversation event on Nov 19, 2022. Photo Credit: Shashi Goel

By Shashi Goel, the Voice

Read the original publication here.  

Though most people think of the homelessness crisis being centred in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a high number of unhoused people live in other areas as well.  

One neighbourhood is trying to tackle the issue itself.

The Marpole Neighbourhood House (MNH) , UBC Centre for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL) and South Vancouver Neighbourhood House (SVNH) gathered last week in Marpole to have a community conversation about homeless experiences and possible solutions in the area.

All around the city

“It’s not just Marpole, it’s everywhere, all communities experience it [homelessness] said Nilda Borrino, executive director of Marpole Neighbourhood House. “We’re just trying to raise the awareness here so that we can also create some safe spaces for folks who need it,” she said.

The event sought to hear from people who have experienced homelessness and explore how more frequent extreme weather, driven by climate change, could affect those living in the area.

“We are seeing higher numbers of older adults in our homeless population than we have in prior years and largely it is because of the cost of housing,” said Sarah Canham, adjunct professor in the department of gerontology at Simon Fraser University.

According to the municipal government, Vancouver had 2,095 residents identified as homeless in 2020.

“It is very prevalent in the downtown core. However, homelessness, it affects every neighbourhood and so it might be more hidden in Marpole,” Borrino said.

Ali Matson, community connector of South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, said unhoused people tend to come to South Vancouver because they can spread out, but that can pose as challenge to get information out about the services available to help them.

“People who are unhoused are here because of space and they do not like living in a crowded community,” she said. “So they take advantage of the space available here to live their lives.”

A new warming centre in Marpole

Angela Han, an engagement adviser of the UBC Centre of Community Engaged Learning said, “This particular event is focused on providing support to the unhoused community to help the community prepare for extreme cold weather.”

At the event they discussed what already works that the community is doing and what can be done better and to build off those assets Han said. They also discussed the impact of climate change on the homeless population and solutions, like warming centres.

Borrino said that they hope in the coming weeks to have the Marpole Neighbourhood House added to the cities list of warming centres, citing the lack of such facilities in Marpole.