03/25/2015 12:22 EDT | Updated 05/24/2015 05:59 EDT

Vancouver goal to end homelessness needs federal and provincial support, says expert

Federal and provincial governments have failed to do their part to help end homelessness in Canadian cities, which is a major reason why the city of Vancouver can't keep its pledge to end street homelessness, according to a UBC political scientist.

When he was elected seven years ago, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made a pledge to end street homelessness by 2015.

After the city's annual homeless count ended on Tuesday, Robertson said he's proud to have set the ambitious goal and disappointed not to have met it.

"No one ever said it would be easy, but I know Vancouverites want and expect us to set important goals and take action," said Robertson.

Carey Doberstein, an assistant professor of political science at UBC Okanagan, says ending homelessness is a laudable goal and significant improvements have been achieved throughout the region.

"I study many cities across the country and the city of Vancouver is actually the best among them for using the policy levees they have available to them," says Doberstein.

These improvements include new supportive housing units and services created by negotiating zoning and selling municipal land.

Doberstein says the city should not be admonished for failing to reach its goal. Instead, residents should call on federal and provincial governments to step up.

"They control the most important areas of the policy that ultimately contribute to homelessness," says Doberstein.

These areas include affordable housing, mental health services, the correctional system, social assistance rates, and the child and family welfare system.

"We've seen cuts or under-investment in these areas for the last couple of decades,"  says Doberstein.

According to Doberstein, senior governments are better positioned to contribute to these areas because of the larger tax base they can pull from.

To listen to the full interview with Carey Doberstein, click on the audio labelled: Why hasn't Vancouver ended homelessness yet?