24 Hours column: "Go it alone" homeless count costs Vancouver $75,000

Post by Mike Klassen in

17 comments

Robertson homeless count
Gregor Robertson counts homeless, but not the cost to taxpayers. Photo: CTV News

CityCaucus.com has received documents that show that Vancouver's "go it alone" homeless count last month has cost city taxpayers $75,000. Had Vancouver waited 12 months, it would have cost the City next to nothing.

In an exclusive report featured in today's 24 Hours newspaper, we're reporting that Vancouver staged its own homeless count last month and hired several consultants at $800 per day to help conduct it. In spite of enlisting hundreds of volunteers, city staff and even the Mayor himself, consultants are being paid in the five figures for their work on the count.

What is not widely understood by the public is that the homeless count is normally coordinated by Metro Vancouver as a regional count every three years. The next region-wide homeless count is scheduled for next March. Unlike Vancouver's $75,000 count, which the city footed the bill for, the regional count is paid for by the federal government and private agencies such as the Vancouver Foundation.

It's worth noting that the budget for 2008's regional homeless count was also $75,000 – and that included all cities in Metro Vancouver.

Why did Gregor Robertson need to rush the count when another count is taking place next March? Calls to the City's housing office for an explanation were not returned. Here below is the column featured in today's 24 Hours newspaper:

Mayor's homeless count pure politics

Last week the City of Vancouver released statistics that showed homelessness has increased 12% since 2008. The numbers were perceived as a setback for Mayor Gregor Robertson, who promises to end homelessness by 2015.

The homeless count had its biggest impact, however, on Vancouver taxpayers.

Documents obtained from city hall sources indicate that Vancouver budgeted up to $75,000 to conduct its own homeless count last March, and citizens are currently paying off bills worth over $51,000 for the results.

And in spite of enlisting hundreds of volunteers and city staff to conduct the count, multiple consultants on the project were paid up to $800 per day. One consultant alone has billed over $14,000 to date.

Typically Metro Vancouver coordinates a regional homelessness count every three years. For that effort the federal government picks up over half the tab, and groups like the Vancouver Foundation cover the remaining costs. Robertson made the case that his city needed to go it alone immediately, despite the fact that the regional homeless count – including Vancouver – is still on track for March 2011.

Critics argue that the Vancouver-only count is not as accurate because the homeless population often migrates in and out of the city’s boundaries.

So why did Vancouver spend all that dosh when they could have got the homeless count for a little or no cost if they had waited 12 months? The answer, dear readers, is pure politics.

Mayor Gregor Robertson – who used the occasion for a photo op of him counting homeless people – explained the rush to get new numbers by saying “We need updated, detailed information to track our progress.”

He didn’t mention anything about the fact funding for his HEAT shelters from the province is running out April 30th, which was his main motivation for spending up to $75,000.

Those who follow the money flowing into Vancouver city hall for social housing note that previous governments secured hundreds of millions of dollars in commitments from Victoria. So far, Robertson has only received just over six million for his HEAT shelters, and no new money for permanent housing.

Members of Roberton’s council have been calling for the province to pick up the costs of their shelters project past the April deadline. Housing Minister Rich Coleman is balking at the demands, insisting that the dollars be directed into housing and not temporary shelter beds. You want shelters, says Coleman to Vancouver, then pay half the costs.

What amazes city hall watchers the most is that Robertson’s shelter plan effectively “hid” Vancouver’s homeless population during the Olympics. Had an NPA mayor attempted this, homeless advocates would have condemned the idea. But because Gregor Robertson is perceived to be an ally of Vancouver’s left, those critics kept their daggers sheathed.

Vancouver’s Mayor is desperately trying to spin the shelters as a solution to the city’s “street” homelessness problem.

But with no apparent plan, no money coming in, and homelessness on the increase, the numbers are not adding up yet for Gregor Robertson’s 2015 promise.

17 Comments

$800 bucks a day for consultants to count homeless people. Has Robertson gone completely mad!! This is an outrage. People are struggling to make ends meet, living on the street and the mayor pays consultants $800 bucks a day to count homeless people. I can't begin to describe how angry I am at this council. I voted for them once, NEVER AGAIN!

During the homeless count it was stated on the news that Penny Ballem's sister came into town to help with the count. Penny's sister was paired with Judy Graves. At the time I found that odd. Was she one of the counters, consultants or just a caring volunteer. Was she paid?
It stuck me at the time that a local housing person would have gained the most knowledge from pairing with such talent as Judy, rather than a visitor. Just curious, if anyone knows.

At least they didn't hire people to be homeless, as did Toronto when it paid people $100 to be homeless for its homeless count. Real homeless people were banned from receiving the $100. For that escapade, the City of Toronto won the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's prestigious Teddy Award, given each year for the most appalling example of government waste.

This shameless waste of money puts Vancouver in the running for next years' Teddy.

$800 dollars a day for homeless counters is sickening. Why not give that money to a homeless shelter for food. I agree with Maureen that this deserves a Teddy!

Is anyone really surprised by this? Gregor Robertson is all about photo ops with no political plan to back anything up. He is driving this city backwards as he runs around smiling for the cameras. This guy really needs to go back to his Happy Planet.

I wonder what groups like the Union Gospel Mission think when they read this.

Often we all get direct mail pieces asking to please donate $2.75 to the Mission to help them provide 1 person a good, healthy meal.

Each $800 fee would have fed 290 people.

Spending money foolishly by this Mayor and Council seems to be never ending.

Sorry, but for some us the 'shiny ball' syndrome is over and hopefully more people will realize this.

This Mayor and Council represent the true definition of socialism:

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that, my dear friend, is about the end of any nation.
You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

(The late Dr. Adrian Pierce Rogers, 1931-2005)

$34,000 for a staff olympic party today. $30,000 for another olympic party on May 15th. $75,000 for a homeless count. $20,000 for a homeless shelter for chickens. Before you know it, the mayor has just found the money he needs to keep his precious HEAT shelters open. All this money should have been directed to solving homelessness, not parties and photo opportunities.

$75000 to count the Homeless. Looks like the Hollyhock mafia got their hands in the cookie jar again.

This message is for everyone that reads these blog posts and is upset about Vision's style of managing the city and its antics while doing so.

Its one thing for us to come on here and post away, upset at what they're doing.

Its quite another to stand up and actually do something about.

Go out and tell 10 friends or strangers how this group is ruining our city. When you're done, find another 10 and tell them the same thing.

On second thought, not just any 10 or 20 people, find those that can and will vote (in Vancouver)to boot Vision out on their asses. Sorry Surrey, this isn't about you again - you have a mayor that's doing a decent job.

Talk does nothing, actions will. If you're upset, please make sure you become active in replacing them with better leadership.

One thing I do not understand is why the shelters cost so much ($100 a day per user). When I did my wanting Make Storyeum a Shelter petition the homeless I spoke to did not want young people at union wage to attend to them (police them) nor did they want to be feed. They only wanted a safe place under a roof to sleep. So why are shelters so expensive. Also I note in the MetroNews yesterday 60% of the users of the shelter at Main and Terminal are employed. So why aren't they being charged for at least the food they eat. But then maybe if they were charged for food, they won't pay for it. The food is being catered by Potluck which is the Portland Hotel Society. Last year when I went to the Granville shelter, a shelter user did not want to eat the pork chop and rice given him for his supper so he offered it to my doggie who refused to eat it.
audreylaferriere@yahoo.ca

The Thought of The Day

“STUPID + VANCOUVER = STUPIDER”

You pick up a paper, click on a web page, and listen to the news on the Radio. Everywhere, in our days, you read about, browse about or talk about The New Incredible and Wonderfully Amazing Gregolliver Travels.

Are Gregolliver’s New Adventures giving you a headache? Do the fact that you voted "Vancouver Vision" during the last election are giving you remorse cramps? Are you getting a bloody nose every time when you hear one of them Vision councillors moving a motion to “spray-paint the homeless ‘foliage green’, ‘brick burgundy’ or ‘Taxicab yellow’ as a way to better blend them in with their surroundings” ?

If that’s the case, you are not alone. And there is a cure. I’m here to help you. Take a deep breath now. Go to the nearest mirror and while looking at your reflection repeat after me:

“ICH BIN EIN STUPIDER”

There. I hope it helped.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

@Sheri.

"$34,000 for a staff olympic party today. $30,000 for another olympic party on May 15th. $75,000 for a homeless count. $20,000 for a homeless shelter for chickens."

You're forgetting something...it's "just a drop in the bucket".

Someone was just at the watercooler and told me to visit this site. They said that the mayor had spent 800 bucks a day for consultants to count homeless people. I thought they were joking. So here I am and can't believe my eyes. Why spend $75,000 on this when he actually should be putting this money toward front line services? I can tell you the 20 or so folks in my office downtown were not too impressed with this expenditure. And I can see why.

The Portland Housing Authority is union, hence 'we' taxpayers are paying union wages of roughly $20/hour per staffer.

Meals themselves do not cost much as the food is generally donated or obtained through a barter system that takes the cost per head to a minimal. Usually dinners come in around $1 - $2 per head.

I can tell you from volunteering at a shelter in the DTES for a period of time - the food served to that shelter's participants was better than what most working people have.

Fresh salad, a hot meal, bread, dessert and coffee, juice or water.

The City confirmed that shelter costs exceed $2000 per person per month. WTH?! How does this *** get away with all his atrocious over-spending and STILL nothing to show for it beyond a temporary bandaid of floor mats?

I'm with Glen Hall - everybody go tell 10 people and so on - Vision has GOT to go.

How can it possibly cost $2,000 per person, per month to run the HEAT shelters? These are city owned garages in which the homeless sleep on the floor. For $2000 per month, we could put them on a cruise ship. We need a forensic audit of the "non-profit" organizations that "manage" the HEAT shelters.

I would also question the Mayor's statement that the HEAT Shelters were at capacity every night. One night before the Olympics, I looked in the door of the HEAT shelter under the Granville Bridge and there were very few people inside.

Vision is an unmitigated disaster. Amateurs from top to bottom. One term will be enough thanks.

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