To hear police tell it, crime in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is being driven up by Oppenheimer Park’s homeless camp.

Five shootings in four months. Hundreds of weapons seized. A spike in 911 calls and a “significant” rise in violent crime, such as robberies and assaults.

Since July, the Vancouver Police Department has said that these increases are “stemming out of Oppenheimer Park and sprawling into the Downtown Eastside,” as Deputy Chief Constable Howard Chow put it in a September statement.

It’s a narrative that has helped frame debate about what should happen to the camp and its residents.

But a Star Vancouver analysis of publicly available crime statistics raises questions about the VPD’s assertions.

It’s clear that there’s been an increase in crime. What’s much less clear, from the data, is whether the homeless camp is to blame. And critics are criticizing how police have presented their case.

A new report says food bank use rose four per cent in the Greater Toronto Area in the last fiscal year and the number of visits from people who live in Mississauga and the inner suburbs of Toronto is growing.

There was a 16 per cent increase in food bank visits from Mississauga residents, a nine per cent increase from North York residents and an eight per cent increase in Scarborough residents.

Among people who live in central Toronto, food bank visits have decreased 11 per cent, but the report says this area continues to have the “highest concentration” of visits in the region.

In the report, “Who’s Hungry: Profile of Hunger in the Toronto Region,” the Daily Bread Food, the North York Harvest Food Bank and the Mississauga Food Bank say there were more than one million visits to food banks in the region between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019.

In the year ending March 2019, food bank visits topped one million in Toronto and Mississauga, according to the annual Who’s Hungry report being released at Queen’s Park Monday.

After dipping in 2017-18, visits jumped by 4 per cent this year, double the rate of population growth in the area, adds the report, which for the first time includes food banks in Mississauga.

“The food bank is the canary in the coal mine,” said Daily Bread’s executive director Neil Hetherington. “That’s why this research is critically important. It is letting people know what is happening on the ground almost in real time.”

A decision to allow only homeless people inside Yellowknife’s downtown day shelter has been welcomed as a courageous move by neighbours but dismissed as ill-conceived by others.

An RCMP vehicle outside Yellowknife’s day shelter and sobering centre

An RCMP vehicle outside Yellowknife’s day shelter and sobering centre. James O’Connor/Cabin Radio

The NWT Disabilities Council, which operates the combined day shelter and sobering centre on 50 Street, initially planned to make the change last week. It will now come into effect on December 2.

Up till now, the day shelter has been largely open to anyone who showed up.

Shocking facts about poverty in Brampton

Here’s a quick—and upsetting—glance at poverty rates in the region:

  • 175,980 (12.8%) of Peel residents live in poverty
  • 18% of children (0-17 years) live in poverty
  • 16% of racialized communities (visible minorities) live in poverty
  • 8.2 % of Peel residents are unemployed
  • 19.7% of Peel youth are unemployed
  • 13,597 of households are on the housing waitlist
  • 70% of low-income households cannot afford housing
  • 14% of households experience marginal, moderate or severe food insecurity
  • Only 30.5% of low-income individuals have dental insurance

Families in London need more money to get by than they did three years ago, according to the London Poverty Research Centre.

The centre says the city’s livable wage is now $16.20 an hour, a 4.3 per cent increase from when it was last tallied in 2016. That number is also $2 more than the current minimum wage in Ontario.

A ​living wage reflects what workers need to be paid in order to meet the basic standards of social and economic inclusion based on the cost of living in London. It is not the same as the legislated minimum wage.

It’s a good thing the Ford government is in the midst of a broad review of Ontario’s social assistance system.

That means it has no excuse to ignore a new report that provides some badly needed advice on how to fix this broken system and make it easier for people to get off welfare and into the workforce.

And it comes just in time. Cuts and punitive measures introduced last year by former social services minister Lisa MacLeod proved to be disasters that had to be paused or reversed.