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New Vancouver buildings get homeless off streets

(Xinhua)

16:07, October 12, 2011

VANCOUVER, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Vancouver celebrated the opening of two new apartment buildings for the homeless Tuesday, highlighting the government's determination to solve the city's homeless problem.

The two buildings, offering 80 and 90 apartments respectively, have been allocated to the city's most vulnerable people, many of whom have been battling addiction and mental illness.

The two modern towers were built at a total cost of about 48.2 million Canadian dollars (46.3 million U.S. dollars) with funding coming from Canada's federal government, the province of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the two downtown structures were the third and fourth of 14 to be built around Vancouver through 2013 to eradicate homelessness in the city by 2015.

"This is a long-term investment that needs to be made," Robertson said. "There are still many in our streets and many, many people in our shelters, sleeping in vans and without true permanent homes that we need to get support to."

As part of a five-year plan launched in 2008, Canada's ruling Conservative Party government has so far committed 3.9 billion Canadian dollars (3.7 billion dollars) to build and improve affordable housing for the homeless.

The province will contribute another 90 million Canadian dollars (86 million dollars) to its housing programs and services.

Paul West, a 41-year-old man who had been living on the streets for the better part of a decade, compared getting his own studio apartment to having won the lottery

"This offers more than just a home. This is truly an opportunity to have a life, to become who you are. This offers stability, warmth and comfort," he said.

While Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia are making progress in reducing their homeless numbers, Lothe Epp, executive director of More Than a Roof Housing Society, sees a quite different picture across the country.

"Between 13 and 17 percent of Canadians live in poverty," he said. "There are approximately 125,000 families and individuals on wait lists for social housing and it is a situation that is serious and needs the attention from all levels of government."

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