Before-and-after photos show how a major city’s homelessness crisis can spiral out of control

Getty ImagesVancouver, Canada

In 2018, more than 2,100 people live on the streets of Vancouver, Canada – a record number for the city.

Over the past three years, homelessness in the Greater Vancouver area has also increased by 30%, a figure that’s on-par with other major North American metro areas struggling with their own growing homelessness crises, like New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The reasons behind urban homelessness are complicated. But experts have pointed to income inequality and gentrification, shortages in tax subsidies for affordable housing, and rising mental healthcare costs that make services less accessible.

A new project called Vancouver Street View visualizes just how dire the city’s homelessness epidemic has gotten in recent years. Created by RainCity Housing, a local nonprofit, the site shows photos of Vancouver streets before and after homeless communities set up informal tent camps.

Take a look below.


Using Google Street View photos over time, the project aims to highlight Vancouver’s worsening homelessness problem.

In a 2017 survey by the city, half of respondents cited a lack of affordable housing as the main reason for being homeless.


The before-and-after images below show a street in an upscale residential neighbourhood in 2015 (top) vs 2017 (bottom):

Vancouver Street View/Google919 Station Street in 2015 (top) vs 2017 (bottom).

Homeless camps similarly line a popular shopping street in the Whalley neighbourhood.

Vancouver Street View/Google10614 135A Street in 2014 (top) vs 2017 (bottom).

In the 2017 photo below, people are sleeping in front of shops on a main thoroughfare in the Gastown neighbourhood.

Vancouver Street View/Google52 East Hastings Street in 2015 (top) vs 2017 (bottom).

Oppenheimer Park serves as a site where dozens of homeless people have set up an informal tent community. This before-and-after photo shows an aerial view of the park in 2016 (top) and 2017 (bottom):

Vancouver Street View/Google

In recent years, Vancouver has tried to clear out tent communities in the city. They often form again in other spots.


RainCity Housing has piloted several social housing projects.

Vancouver Street View/Google3035 Gordon Avenue in 2014 (top) vs 2016 (bottom).

This before-and-after image shows a building that opened in late 2015 and features 30 permanent units, 30 transitional units, plus space for an additional 30 people during extreme weather.


Another permanent housing complex for over 200 homeless women and children opened in 2015.

Vancouver Street View/Google215 Princess Avenue in 2012 (top) vs 2016 (bottom).

And in December 2017, a building with 129 units of subsidized rental housing opened in the neighbourhood of Marpole. The complex doubles as an addiction-treatment and mental-health center.

Vancouver Street View/Google8111 Granville Street in 2015 (top) vs 2017 (bottom).

Other North American cities are grappling with their own homelessness crises. In May, San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell pledged $US29.1 million for homeless services.

The money will go toward the construction of 197 permanent apartment buildings with approximately 7,700 total units, the most per capita of any city in the US, according to Curbed. In 2017, the city counted 7,499 people living on its streets.


Vancouver expects more than 600 permanent subsidized homes and 600 temporary modular homes to open by the end of 2018.

Vancouver Street View/Google2456 Fraser Street in 2012 (top) vs 2017 (bottom).

So far, 156 modular units have opened, the Vancouver Courier reports. The Vancouver Native Housing Society building pictured above, opened in 2014 with 103 units for the homeless.


Vancouver Street View may reveal that affordable housing — both temporary and permanent— is one of the most practical ways to alleviate urban homelessness.


“It’s time to face just how much the street view has changed and look at real solutions to help end homelessness,” the team wrote.

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