John Doyle, the British Columbia auditor, has just released a sobering review of homelessness programs that concludes that the provincial government “has not been successful in reducing homelessness. Clear goals and objectives for homelessness and adequate accountability for results remain outstanding. Government also lacks adequate information about the homeless and about the services already available to them — this hampers effective decision making. Finally, government has not yet established appropriate indicators of success to improve public accountability for results.”
The auditor’s report echoes many of the themes raised by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing in the final report on his fact-finding mission to Canada, which will be tabled at the UN Human Rights Council on Monday. The auditor calls for a much more thorough and pragmatic plan to end homelessness in British Columbia, and notes that many other jurisdictions have already adopted solid plans.
A key observation of the B.C. auditor:
“We found significant activity and resources being applied to homelessness issues but there is no provincial homelessness plan with clear goals and objectives. The foundation of many best practices appear to be in place. However, the absence of clear goals and objectives raises questions about whether the right breadth and intensity of strategies are being deployed. This is further complicated by the lack of good comprehensive information about the nature and extent of homelessness in the province. Homeless counts identify only the ‘visible’ homeless; those in shelters and those found on the streets. The ‘hidden’ homeless, those staying temporarily with friends or family, are not counted. The continuing increase in the number of homeless counted suggests a lack of success in managing homelessness, let alone reducing it. When there are no clear goals or performance targets, accountability for results is missing. How will we know we are successful if we have not identified success?”