A downtown homeless shelter is getting ready to reopen its doors again full-time.

After being forced to close in August over community concerns, the homeless service hub has restructured its hours.

It now operates as an emergency shelter only – open every evening from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. – and will for the next three months.

More help will be available for shelter clients when it opens full-time in January, with the addition of life skills programming and counselling.

Vancouver city council passed a multi-pronged motion Wednesday that suggests the one-year-old Oppenheimer Park tent city in the Downtown Eastside will continue to operate indefinitely.

The motion requests city staff work with the park board to consider adding a community kitchen, laundry, clothes drying spaces and 24-hour sanitation facilities with running water “near Oppenheimer Park.”

Black Canadians experience food insecurity at nearly twice the rate of white Canadians, even when adjusting for household income, home ownership, immigration status and education, according to a new report.

One of the report’s authors says the findings – based on a survey of 491,400 Canadians – reveal “a very significant problem of racism.”

Rather than focusing exclusively on food banks or school breakfast programs, advocates and researchers say the solution to food insecurity lies in addressing the systemic discrimination that black people face at disproportionately high rates.

The Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB) conducted a survey on homelessness across the region in 2018, fulfilling one of the requirements of the Housing Services Act 2011, but in a letter from Janet Hope, assistant deputy minister with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, thanking the DSB for working with them to conduct the province-wide survey and noting it was an “important first step,” the ministry announced that due to “gaps and limitations in the enumeration approach and resulting data collected,” the ministry had recognized “that there are opportunities to improve the enumeration approach.”

For those reasons, the letter continues, “the ministry will pause the requirement for service managers to conduct local homelessness enumeration to give us time to review in more detail future enumeration requirements and ensure the data collected will be used to improve programs and outcomes for those experiencing homelessness.”

“Why don’t they patch things up with their parents?”
“Why don’t they toughen up and get a job?”
“Why don’t they just quit drugs?”

It is all too easy to pass the buck when it comes to a largely-stigmatized and marginalized group of people, but experts say the growing problem of youth homelessness in York Region was a multifaceted issue that extends far beyond “individual-level responsibility.”

“There are much larger societal forces in play that lead to the problem of homelessness … It’s not very satisfactory for people who want a black and white answer,” said Stephen Hwang, a professor in public health at the University of Toronto whose research focuses on homelessness, housing and health.

A month after a suspected arson forced the evacuation of the north building of Forest View Suites on Princeton Drive and a subsequent inspection by the fire department led to it being deemed unsafe for occupation, the repercussions continue for the former residents and the city.

“With the fire we’ve acquired some homeless individuals at the shelter now so now we’re over capacity again,” said Thompson Homeless Shelter executive director Paullette Simkins at the Oct. 10 public safety committee meeting, noting that there are only 24 sleeping mats available. “The ones that don’t get a mat we are just sitting on the floor.”

Both of the city’s homeless shelters are at capacity and have been for the past year. And an ongoing shortage of affordable housing has created bleak prospects for people living on the street, said Myles Vanni, executive director at Inn of the Good Shepherd.

The 27-resident facility on Confederation Street is often forced to turn people away, Vanni said – a far cry from two years ago when 15 residents a night was the norm.

What’s more, emergency funding of $45,000 used to shelter 99 homeless individuals at local motels in January and February isn’t available this winter due to provincial cutbacks, Vanni added.