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B.C. boosts money to help house vulnerable youths in effort to reduce homelessness

It's an approach that targets the root causes of homelessness, B.C. government says
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A message is spray painted on the outside of a tent at a homeless encampment at Strathcona Park in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 30, 2021. The B.C. government is expanding supports for former youth in care as part of a cross-government approach targeting the root causes of homelessness.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The B.C. government is expanding supports for former youth in care and complex-care housing as part of an approach that it says targets the root causes of homelessness.

Several cabinet ministers gathered for a news conference Thursday to share details of $633 million over three years, funding announced in Budget 2022 to support people experiencing homelessness.

Mitzi Dean, minister of children and family development, said $35 million over three years will help former youth in care, almost half of whom experience homelessness at some point in their lives. “This is the first time the province has created a ­comprehensive ­cross-­government approach to supporting youth in and from care,” Dean said.

It will help cover an ­unconditional one-year income supplement of $1,250 per month and a $600-a-month rental ­supplement. A no-limit ­earnings ­exemption aims to give the young adults “an ­incentive to work and build that ­independence for ­themselves,” while they receive supports, Dean said.

The government is also ­making permanent an ­emergency measure that was put in place in response to the COVID-19 ­pandemic that allows young people to stay in their foster homes past the age of 19 until they are 21 years old.

Other funds to help the ­homeless outlined by the ­ministers include $164 million to expand the government’s complex-care housing program and $264 million for a permanent housing plan to support about 3,000 people who were temporarily housed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a report released ­Wednesday, the government found 23,000 people experienced homelessness in 2019, with about an equal split between chronic and temporary homelessness.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said in a statement the promise of 20 new complex-care sites across B.C. “can’t come soon enough.”

The model integrates ­housing with care from nurses, social workers and other health workers for residents with overlapping mental health and substance use issues and brain injuries.

The government announced plans for the first four sites in January in Surrey, Abbotsford and Vancouver.

Helps said the city is looking forward to deploying as many as possible of the 3,000 new rent supplements at $600 each announced in the budget to get people into existing housing.

The First Nations Leadership Council applauded the increase in supports, saying in a statement that programs for youth have been highly restrictive and offered few results. The council said it would hold the government accountable to the pledges, given that First Nations adults from care have some of the worst outcomes and are 200 times more likely to become homeless.

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