VANCOUVER - Booming cities may be fuelling hot economies but they`re leaving poor people out in the cold, housing advocates from various countries said Monday at the United Nations World Urban Forum.
Michael Shapcott, a spokesman for the National Housing and Homelessness Network, told a banner-carrying crowd gathered outside the forum that people are being evicted from their homes because they can`t afford to live there.
Shapcott and various groups that are part of the Habitat International Coalition denounced government policies that leave thousands of people homeless in cities whose populations are growing rapidly.
He said advocates were at the conference to remind Canadians and those from other countries that there`s been little action from governments despite a myriad of international treaties signed to provide adequate housing.
"As governments have signed treaties and covenants at the international level they`ve been cutting funding and programs within their domestic agenda," Shapcott said.
"We, as (nongovernmental agencies), are here to remind them and hold their feet to the fire on those commitments."
Besides the delegates from 150 countries that are attending the World Urban Forum, the event has also drawn members of special interest groups looking for attention to their issues.
Thousands of people - with some wearing their colourful native garb - have converged at the Vancouver Convention Centre, where heavy security attempted to control streams of people going in and out of the facility.
The conference is designed as a venue for nongovernment agencies, city planners and grassroots groups to exchange ideas on what is working best in cities around the world that are trying to deal with growing populations.
Housing, safety, transportation, pollution and sanitation are some of the top concerns being discussed.
Shapcott said homelessness is a key worry and that the number of homeless people in Vancouver rose by almost 300 per cent between 2002 and 2005.
In Ontario, about 60,000 families are evicted every year because they can`t afford to pay the rent in a city that`s becoming too expensive to live in, he said.
"They`re losing their homes and many of them are becoming homeless," said Shapcott, who lives in Toronto.
In May, the United Nations Economic and Social Council slammed Canada for its lack of a national housing program.
A report on the topic called on all levels of government to address homelessness and inadequate housing as a national emergency by reinstating social housing programs and increasing social assistance rates to realistic levels.