Unable to afford rent, some Vancouver seniors choosing to take their own lives rather than become homeless, advocate says

By Lisa Tanh

More seniors are being pushed into homelessness because they can’t afford the city’s high cost of living or find a safe shelter, says the head of a seniors’ non-profit organization.

Anthony Kupferschmidt, executive director of the West End Seniors’ Network, said many seniors in Metro Vancouver rely on low fixed incomes such as old age security pensions and benefits which do not keep up with rising rent prices.

“We see older adults who have to choose between paying their rent, electrical bills, food and medications,” Kupferschmidt said. “How do you choose between the medications that might keep you healthy and having a roof over your head? Some develop mental health issues or choose to take their lives – rather than become homeless.”

Kupferschmidt said the City of Vancouver’s homeless counts aren’t even close to capturing the number of seniors. This is because they may be sleeping on couches of friends or others. He also said the city needs to design shelters that are appropriate for them to sleep in.

“There are many older adults who cannot get up on a top bunk to sleep in at a shelter,” Kupferschmidt said. “Oftentimes, shelters are not perceived as safe places to sleep and stay in – even by younger people. Older adults feel threatened or unsafe in environments where theft and drug use have happened.”

Ethel Whitty, the City of Vancouver’s director of homelessness services, said the city has been thinking about more ways to capture the number of homeless people, rather than “walking around the street and asking people.” She also said that while shelters are not appropriate for anyone, some seniors enjoy the social aspect.

“We do have some seniors who like the communal living aspects of shelters, because they are not so lonely,” Whitty said. “If you’re not quite as mobile or [you’ve] lost a number of friends, it’s nice to have that built-in community of a shelter.”

Whitty added that while the city has a program that offers homeless people income support and assistance into social or supportive housing, they do not have a seperate program for homeless seniors.

“However, I would say one of the things that we’re trying to do right now with modular housing is proving single-rooms with your own washroom and a shared kitchen,” Whitty said. “ I think [that] will work very well for seniors because that social aspect will be there for them.”

ThinkPol asked B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson, about solutions to tackle the growing number of homeless seniors in Metro Vancouver.

In an emailed statement, media officer, Lindsay Byers, said, “BC Housing funds programs to support seniors as they move from shelters to seniors’ supportive housing, as well as financial assistance for home modifications through the home adaptations for independence program, to assist seniors maintain independent living. BC Housing also supports low income seniors renting in the private market by providing rent supplements via the shelter aid for elderly renters program.”

Byers also said the province has allocated $66 million toward 600 units of modular housing and that they’re expanding eligibility and benefits for their SAFER program – where close to 23,000 seniors will benefit.

“Effective September 2018, on average, eligible low-income seniors will receive an extra $930 per year,” Byers said.

[Photo Credit: Luke Richardson]

58 Responses to Unable to afford rent, some Vancouver seniors choosing to take their own lives rather than become homeless, advocate says

  1. Concerned and depressed local says:

    Now we are dealing with American’s commuting from Canada because it’s cheaper here. I wish I could work in the States and live in Canada. Wouldn’t life be grad.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/ceo-commutes-by-plane-to-silicon-valley-2018-3

    Prepare for more homeless!

    • Concerned and depressed local says:

      *Grand

    • Anonymous says:

      Great! Housing is enough of a problem in canada without americans moving in looking for “cheaper” housing. We have a huge homeless issue here for all ages. Jobs are hard to find, they don’t pay enough, and the housing market is rising in price for us stuck with the comparitably low Canadian dollar. Foreigners exploiting that don’t help.

    • Valerie Adams says:

      Why can’t they do those tiny houses. So each has their own space… And wouldn’t that cost less money?

  2. Dave says:

    Vancouver: The Leftist Utopia.

  3. d. leC says:

    for those of us who did manage to get into Rent geared to Income, some 20 yrs. ago; we r now faced with providing a couch for our adult children who can’t afford outrageous rental costs – then our own rents go up accordingly when we r the ones coping with overcrowding.

  4. Lone Wolf says:

    25 years ago Vancouver was already esxpensive. Chinese ( Hong-Kong) speculators made this worse. A real shame since they are not even living in Vancouver. I wish people wake up and kick these investors out. This is a gangrene that is now spreading to all Canadian Provinces. Canadian Government is doing nothing to help. A real pitty!

    • Ken Hamer says:

      Actually statistics as recent as late 2017 show far more Americans are absent owners than Chinese nationals…but I guess because Americans are White, that’s “OK” with most Vain-couverites. Tacit racism is driving the demonizing Chinese investors/absent owners. Sales figures since the foreign owner tax went into effect show Chinese offshore ownership is way down.

      Moonbeam and NoVision caused this. A decade of being fully funded by Developers in exchange for rubber stamping overpriced, cookie cutter “Luxury”(in name only) condos drove pices through the roof (and they ain’t coming down anytime soon). Plus Moonbeam arrogantly ignored the exploding homeless issue (despite his idiot, untenable promise to single handedly “end Homelessness by 2015”) until it actually became a front burner ejection issue last election (when he made his famous bald face lie to end homelessness…say any lie for a vote).

    • Xox says:

      I feel like houses are meant to be homes. If we did not allow people to own more than one house…just the home they live in and possibly a recreational home…we would have plenty of affordable housing available. Why in the hell would we allow anyone not a resident of our country to own property. We should all be able to afford a mortgage or rent. But that is not the case. We moved into a 5th wheel and pay a pad rent fee…not ideal but affordable.

  5. Mao Tse Wut says:

    It’s not people from Hong Kong anymore. There isn’t nearly the volume of people in Hong Kong to account for this; it is mainlanders who are the issue and their desperation to throw their money under any mattress they can find outside the PRC. The problem is they don’t even much care if the value of the property appreciates, that is only a casual benefit. And since there are now several millions of millionaires in China, this is a problem that will overtake not only Vancouver and Toronto, but any western city that does not take the care and effort to restrict their money laundering activities. Auckland, Brisbane, and Sydney have all had the exact same issues.

  6. Anonymous says:

    seniors need a BIG raise, seniors get $1,200 a month starting wage is $11.75×40-$470×4=$1880 a month IS THE FAIR?

    • Doreen Gee says:

      You make an excellent point, “anonymous”! The average senior on Old Age Security gets almost $700 less a month than someone making mimimum wage in BC!! That is a national disgrace. No wonder our valuable elders are ending up homeless. Shame on out federal government!! ———– Doreen Gee, Victoria BC.

      • nonconfidencevote says:

        Old Age “Security” is nothing more than a welfare stipend from the feds…..

        That being said.
        The average Canadian is abysmally uneducated when it comes to preparing for retirement.
        Time to ramp up CPP payments a la Australia and make govt pension plans a little more financially realistic.
        Old Age and CPP equate , on average to $1200/month after taxes and you expect to remain in Vancouver?
        Give your head a shake.

    • Donna says:

      senior in Canada get $857 per month to live on

      • nonconfidencevote says:

        CPP max $1100/month and Old Age security $580/month

        Assume aprox $1650/month.
        Subtract taxes.
        Take home aprox $1200/month

        http://www.google.ca/url?url=http://www.benefitscanada.com/news/new-oas-and-cpp-and-benefit-amounts-take-effect-for-2018-108699&rct=j&frm=1&q=&esrc=s&sa=U&ved=0ahUKEwiC7L3a05naAhVH7WMKHYZXC48QFggUMAA&usg=AOvVaw0a6DYlL_yeIiJsw4t_sZdT

        As I have said previously.
        $1200/ month is Woefully inadequate for someone to live a comfortable retirement on.

        Hence Canada should have dramatically higher premiums for CPP OR actually teach people how to prepare/save for retirement….
        Unfortunately most humans cant seperate “wants” from “needs” and squander years of saving for annual cruises, vacations, cars, clothes etc etc etc.
        Which is evident by the amount of unused RRSP and TFSA contribution room most Canadians have squandered.

        $1 million in savings will allow aprox $55k per year for 25 years.

        Good luck

        • Anonymous says:

          No taxes on seniors income. Also, if you are below a certain level you get the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

          • nonconfidencevote says:

            “No taxes on seniors income”?

            What planet do YOU live on because I want to move there.

            Last time I “chequed” taxes were taken off CPP at source.
            AND if you were smart enough to save for a rainy day and have extra income (ie RRSP’s , investments, etc.”)
            You’re taxed big time.
            Both my parents recieve supplementary pensions, investment income, CPP and Old Age Security.
            They put the CPP and OAS in a bank account and give it ALL back to the govt as taxes at the end of the year.

            Kind of like the govt “punishing the savers” for the largess of the “spenders”.
            Whatever.
            Spend all your money on holidays, new cars, etc. in your youth…..eat catfood in a cold damp basement in your “golden years”.
            CPP and Old Age “Security” as your only source of income? ……good luck

          • Diamond Minx says:

            actually, yes seniors are taxed on their income – including government pensions

        • Anonymous says:

          Nice to save if you have any money ever left over! Who can save a million dollars when you are struggling to pay each months rent already? vancouver wages are not indexed to housing in any manner. A lot of people who were local middle class are slipping down the socio-economic ladder not from irresponsible spending. From the terrible inflation of housing and increased cost of living generally.

          • nonconfidencevote says:

            I had no money in my bank account at 30.
            Lived pay cheque to pay cheque.
            Something had to change.
            I separated “wants” from “Needs”.
            Maxed out RRSP’s rather than go to Mexico.
            Shared ownership on a house, sold and rented. Invested THAT money, invested my RRSP tax refunds,
            on and on and on.
            Did I “want” a new car every 5 years? Sure.
            Did I “need” a new car every 5 years? Absolutely not.
            I just traded in my 20 year old spotless truck for a new one. Paid cash. Should last me at least another 20 – 30 years.
            “Wants” vs “needs”

            Several decades later.
            Have almost 1 mil.
            Plan on retiring in relative comfort in the next 5 years or so.
            My CPP and OAS will pay my taxes.

        • Len Wagner says:

          One million in savings…and who has your million??
          Turdeau and associates
          HaHaHa…
          No thanks , I don’t trust any of them

          • nonconfidencevote says:

            Wow!
            So ignorant. So paranoid. So wrong.

            Enjoy eating catfood while sleeping in the back seat of your leased car. Dont forget to blow out the candle when you go to sleep.
            Financially ignorant is no way to go through life, but dont worry, if the statistics on unused RRSP and TFSA contribution room are any indication…… there’s plenty of other financially ignorant Canadians just like you to keep you company.

            We teach history, geography, science, social awareness, political correctness, everything else BUT how to balance a budget and prepare for the future.
            Financial discipline isnt natural. Its learned.
            “Wants vs “Needs”
            But then again, you have to be willing to learn.

            Never mind. Just keep laughing and spewing vitriol on the net.
            Hating all new ideas except the ones that reinforce your fiscal myopia.

            Len .
            I hear Purina Cat chow is on sale a Save On Foods.
            Good Luck!

        • Time traveler says:

          Maybe if the government didn’t slave tax everyone so bad people could live. They waste tax dollars on rusty pipelines. Wake up sheepeople. The flock is thinning. Better bring in more refugees on tax payers money. No cpp in the future for me.

        • Anonymous too says:

          Your comment generalizes that people got into that spot due to squandering: as you said, “years of saving for annual cruises, vacations, cars, clothes etc etc etc.” instead of putting enough money to work in unused RRSP and TFSA contributions. How presumptive. Perhaps there is more to the story than meets the eye? Due to globalization ever since the early 80’s which entailed off-shoring of jobs by the 100s of 1000s per year and dying industries that resulted, job security vanished and competition soared for remaining jobs. Millions upon millions of people worked on a contract/temporary/freelance basis from then on which left them with declining pay for disappearing benefits and Corporate pensions became a rarity. Others faced business venture and finance losses trying to keep up with several recessions ever since. Remember the stock market crash of 2008 and the mortgage and loan crisis which stole their homes? I’d venture to guess they sometimes only had enough to live on and none extra to put away. Many got through basic needs on credit card debt and maybe a few rewards besides, and that’s a problem too, another crisis we as a nation have to deal with. Please don’t turn others off, help find solutions to what is now in front of us. Your knowledge and sharing of what money turns into when it is pooled over time is a good start. Some form of national income plan for personal finance recovery funding is needed imho.

  7. sleddog says:

    I used to live in Vancouver (early 00’s). My Grandmother died in that city. A few years before she passed, she slipped on the sidewalk and fell, breaking her hip. She was not able to get up. She sat there for almost 10 minutes and she said maybe 50 people just walked right past her before someone took a second to realize she was injured. People in Vancouver walk around huffing their own farts, blinded by a sense of superiority. I worked my ass off and paid ridiculous sums of rent to pay down another person’s mortgage. Smartest thing I ever did was leave. Middle and Low income people should just leave the city to the rich, let them pump their own gas.

    • John says:

      amen… and the oap need to move to cheaper areas. Sad but a modern reality. The prairies have small cities that are reasonable

  8. Lori says:

    I’m a single mom on disability raising a child and I receive $1,300/month plus the canada child tax benefit. I have an older child who is in seasonal employment. I am finding it very difficult to provide a stable home for both of my children. My oldest child had to borrow money from my mom to help pay her rent and buy food when she was sick for a couple of weeks. Nobody has been able to help me.

    • Luke says:

      So where is the child’s father? Was he a decent but boring guy you kicked out BC you were no longer attracted to him, or did you originally pick a bad boy whose running off was expected by everyone but you?

      • nonconfidencevote says:

        Geez brudda.
        Give the gal a break. Maybe he died………
        Or maybe you’re spot on.
        Either way.
        She’s suffering enough already

  9. Annie Wilkinson says:

    Here are a few factors that should be changed as soon as possible If you become disabled between 60 and 65 years of age you HAVE to take your CPP early in order to get PWD Thus you loose 30% of YOUR money as it was you who paid into it SAFER the housing subsidy for seniors will ONLY subsidize rent up to $765 a month in Vancouver and up to $667 a month outside of the Lower Mainland and just WHERE do you find a place for those prices If you do get a BC Housing unit you are then stuck for the rest of your life with ONLY elderly people in your community This is not healthy and there are no younger people to assist you when you need it It is also detrimental to your mental and emotional well being. Oh and you are not permitted to paint or change flooring or light fixtures You cannot make it YOUR home Canada’s elderly are being abused by the Government We need a minimum $3000 a month to live NOT $1600! SHAME ON YOU

    • Anonymous says:

      Totally, it is so sick that we keep throwing the elderly in with other elderly. It takes a village with all ages, young to old, to thrive. We stick our 18 month olds into daycare to go to work, then our old mothers and fathers into the ‘system’ to disintegrate with the other oldies. It is so super disheartening. The government knows this is detrimental to our evolution, emotional and social well-being, but they don’t give a FUCK, because it is all a part of the plan to keep the masses dumbed down and controlled for their own power-over…..ie money, control and everything else that is unreal. We are guided to live isolated, unfulfilled lives with potential that is hiding under the surface like a seed that never fruitions, Why? Why? What is the benefit? Are people really THIS afraid of their/Our own potential/brilliance???????

    • Len Wagner says:

      Annie…change whatever you want to…
      Who would know ?
      But you are correct it is pitiful that Turdeau can give 10.5 million(I think)
      to some poor terrorist wannabe…and give himself a golden pension and benefit package(when it should have been just a shower) But the people that built this country or at least supported it get next to nothing…

  10. Brenda says:

    This is unthinkable !
    This us all over the province of not all of Canada !!
    Why are seniors in the province of BC living under the poverty line, with their hydro, gas, groceries etc. going up along with the standard of living increases. Last increase they got .70cents a month raise. What a joke. Our elderly have paved the way and some paying a big price for this country and this is what they have got in return? People on welfare get more than our elderly after they support this country with taxes for over 75 years! Our elderly should NOT be put in this situation!!

  11. Beryle Chambers says:

    Have you ever watched the movie “Soylent Green”? It takes place in a dystopian world where living conditions are terrible.There was one scene in particular that shas stayed with me for many years. Edward G. Robinson played an old friend/mentor to a young Charlton Heston. Eventually life becomes too hard for the old man and he decides to end it at a state-sponsored suicide clinic. He is put in a beautiful room on a bed and an exquisite movie of Nature scenes – before the ecology of the planet was destroyed – plays along with beautiful music.He says goodbye to Charlton Heston and dies. No shame, no judgement. He is allowed to choose death in a way that benefitted society (in a rather unorthodox way). I am a senior. Most of my friends are long dead.I’m finding it very difficult to cover all my living costs by pension and it gets harder every year.I wish I had the opportunity to peacefully leave this world like Edward G. Robinson did. If society is unwilling to help seniors live by ensuring a liveable income, then I think we should have a choice to end our lives with no pain, npo blame, no shame.It is a terrible thing to be old, alone and sick,with no help and only worse suffering ahead. But we would need medical assistance to die rather than trying a DIY that might not work and leave us suffering even more. I challenge Canada to think of a better solution and reason to live on or not be hypocritical or surprised when we want to die.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Our province continually increases poverty and suicide rates and no one even realizes it. BC disgusts me.

  13. John McMaster says:

    It’s a housing problem caused by speculation. Make private investment the solution, not just the cause of the problem. Increase housing supply for poor/elderly by eliminating zoning regulations so that a developer can build giant highrise complexes with teeny tiny units and still make a profit. Have a means test for residents. No zoning means no setbacks, no minimum unit size and so on. Yes, it will become a slum. Better than the current alternative.

    • Faye Beyer says:

      Why would a highrise complex with tiny units for seniors become a slum? The majority of us (seniors) keep a petty decent house and when we need something fixed we call a repair man even if we have to cut back on something else to pay the repair man.

  14. DIOGENES says:

    “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes it’s laws” — Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild

    “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry David Thoreau

    The root of the economic system is the strangle hold on the world’s monetary system by the Zionist Banksters!

    Talk of the price going up is talk of those lacking knowledge
    The fact of the matter is the value of the currency diminishes, that and the currency has only agreement as to it’s worth!

    The Sheople flock to the poles and give away their power to who ever has the best propagandists with the result being what it is

  15. X is not Z says:

    don’t worry, Trudeau is hard at work trying to solve this. He’s going to ban the word “mankind” from schools across the country and rewrite the national anthem to make it more inclusive.

  16. Cathy Aleck says:

    Come on our people need homes everyone

  17. Anonymous says:

    That *anybody* in a so-called First World Nation be allowed to go homeless, hungry or unhealthy is shameful.
    We can tsk-tsk and blame our gov’t till the cows come home, but, at the end of the day, it’s on us.
    We, as a society, continually allow the 1%, the gov’t or powers that be to neglect and abuse us and it will never stop until we collectively make it stop.

    • nonconfidencevote says:

      Well, there are a lot of people that are mentally ill and , rather than live by rules or due to their illness…..are homeless.

      So do we incarcerate them?
      In mental institutions?
      Let them go after 6 months when they have improved?
      Arrest them again when they’re off their meds?
      The Federal govt opened the asylums 25 years ago and pushed thousands of people on the streets or into halfway houses because they couldnt afford the cost.
      The revolving door of the criminal justice system doesnt work either.

      Unhealthy?
      Do you include the drug addicts in that statement?
      Meth addicts that will immediately get another fix after “treatment”?
      When do we as a society say “no more. You are a lost cause?”
      Never?
      I PERSONALLY know of a meth addict who is undergoing expensive cancer treatment for throat cancer…a trachyotomy tube hanging out of his neck while he sucks down another hit of meth from his crack pipe.
      he’s recieving 4 visits a week from a public health nurse who has to have police with her because he lives in a Crack house….How much does THAT cost? $1000/ hour? $2000?
      He’s dying and he doesnt care about anything except his next fix.
      While other hard working taxpayers …diagnosed with cancer ….wait for treatment……..

      Sorry
      I pay more than my fair share in taxes and I am fed UP with the absolute WASTE of govt beaurocrats s and their coruppted, inept decisions.
      The only thing worse are people that expect “the govt” to pay for everything when in actuality it isnt the govt but TAXPAYERS

      Hunger.
      I agree with.
      More foood is thrown out than the hungry could ever eat…..why?
      Govt sloth. Inefficient companies, lazy people, inept charities,the list goes on.

      • Trisha says:

        There will come a day when you hv a clear picture of that ‘addict’, you so obviously despise. This will come as a family friend, relative, or even yourself, as no one is immune. It’s not until the cow shits in our back yard that we really know the smell. Addiction is a form of suffering you most certainly haven’t grasped, but for news footage. I have served time on both sides of this fence, and I know how patient and persistent it to be. Be careful what you wish for, as the Lesson is often a painful one. Heees to those who’ve found recovery…..and for those ignorant, and misinformed, with their beliefs and comments. Society is the root of the Sickness

        • nonconfidencevote says:

          “Society” aka the “Taxpayers” cant pay for everything.

          Triage is a term Im sure you are familiar with.

          The system is breaking down under the weight of overdoses.
          We have Paramedics that are quitting because they cant handle it any more. paramedics suffering from PTSD because they cant save everyone.
          Addicts being “revived” with “miracle drugs” two and three times IN ONE NIGHT.
          When 5 or ten years ago they would have died.
          Do we keep spending millions pouring money into “treating” addicts( basically keeping them alive until they leave the hospital to repeat the process) while the sick, the elderly, the terminally ill.
          While our hospital emergency wards crumbe and rot due to lack of taxpayer funding.
          Does any of this compute?

          Addicts who due to their addictions, contribute nothing but misery to their victims.
          Addicts who have cost the legal system, the medical system, their friends and families endless money, patience and time…..?
          When do we finally say, ‘Enough?”

          Perhaps on the next “Welfare Wednesday” when your parents, sibling, friend suffers a heart attack and there are no available ambulances to respond?

  18. Wayne says:

    In the last year food prices alone have gone up 100% or more.

    • nonconfidencevote says:

      The last year food has gone up 100% ?
      Total Bullshit.
      Proof?
      Links?
      Or are you eating lobster and caviar every meal?

  19. BGS says:

    I don’t know how much jews overcharge for AIDS meds in Canada but in the US it now runs ~$8000 per month per person, with lots of African refugees chowing down on that in free housing while getting more cash payouts than social security.

    Anyone countering that it runs under 5k hasn’t checked prices since a hedgefund manager bought rights to a $13 a pill 62year old drug & raised the prices by hundreds of dollars per pill.

    Instead of killing yourselves follow Breivik’s example and kill those drilling holes in the hull of your society.

  20. Richard Beck says:

    It is a cultures duty to look after and protect their elderly.
    That statement should mean something to someone somewhere. Our elderly should never be without a roof over their heads. If you really stop and think about it it was our elderly that paved the way for us to continue to build on what they started for us.
    We also need to remember that there should not be one elderly person left homeless or without a place to stay because they can’t afford to pay their rent or their mortgage because the landlord or the bank decide that the payment price needs to be raised in the hopes that they can drive the renter or the homeowner out of the house or apartment that they live in just so that the landlord or the bank can raise the cost of what it will take to either move in or own the place that they can afford until the landlord or the bank decide to raise the cost again just so that they can make more money. The more that it costs our elderly to stay where they’re living the more elderly homeless people there are going to be on the streets and in the shelters. If you really look hard at some of the homeless people that are out on the streets or in shelters you’ll see that some of them are not only our elderly , but they’re also some of the people who served this country in our military that might need medical help as well as a place that they can afford to call they’re own. Its time for our government to step up and start taking care of the homeless in this country even if it means giving each state the money to take care of the homeless people that are everywhere in this country that need a place to stay where they can eat,sleep, and take a shower anytime that they want to. The government created the homeless they should be the ones that should take care of them. There should be no homeless anywhere in the country and the government knows this.

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