The most recent homeless count in Metro Vancouver found 3,605 people are currently homeless in the region. That’s up 30 per cent from the previous count in 2014 — an “extraordinary increase,” according to the region’s officials.
The count is a 24-hour snapshot of people who were homeless in the Metro Vancouver region on March 8.
The count included people who do not have a place of their own where they could expect to stay for more than 30 days and do not pay rent. This includes people who stay in homeless shelters including transition houses for women fleeing violence, youth safe houses, hospitals, jails or detox facilities, as well as people who live “outside,” including in alleys, doorways, parkades, parks and vehicles, or stay temporarily with others.
Of the 3,605 people who have been identified as homeless, 2,573 made use of shelters, but 1,032 did not.
The largest homeless population was identified in Vancouver, with 2,138 people, followed by Surrey with 602 people, and Langley with 206.
Homelessness increased in all communities except on the North Shore, between 19 per cent in Burnaby, and 142 per cent in Delta/White Rock.
Region-wide, 828 more people were identified as homeless in 2017 compared to 2014, representing a 30-per-cent increase in homelessness and the highest number to date.
Metro Vancouver’s Regional Homelessness Task Force was struck in November 2016 in response to historic levels of homelessness throughout the region.
Using analysis of 2016 income assistance cases that indicated no fixed address, the task force estimated that about 4,000 people are in immediate need of housing in Metro Vancouver. The report estimated that five additional people become homeless in the region every week, while more than 60,000 households in Metro Vancouver spend more than half their income on shelter, leaving them one paycheque away from homelessness.
“Despite local governments’ best efforts using every tool we have to address homelessness and provide affordable housing, homelessness across Metro Vancouver continues to spike and spread across the region with nowhere near enough action from the B.C. government,” Mayor Gregor Robertson, co-chair of the Regional Homelessness Task Force, said in a release. “Metro Vancouver mayors have been ringing the alarm bells for years while the homelessness crisis has spiraled out of control. We need all B.C. provincial parties to put homelessness front and centre in the upcoming election on May 9.”
A total of 199 children under 19 years of age and 179 youth between 19 and 24 years were found homeless, adding up to a total of 378. Young people under 25 years represented 16 per cent of the homeless population in 2017, compared to 20 per cent in 2014. Young people are the only age group where the count results showed a decrease.
A total of 380 seniors between 55 and 65 years, and another 176 seniors above the age of 65 were identified as homeless. Seniors aged 55 and over thereby represented 23 per cent of the homeless population compared to 18 per cent in 2014. The task force says this continues the upward trend for seniors that has been evident since 2008.
A concurrent homeless count held in the Fraser Valley Regional District found a 74-per-cent increase in homelessness compared to the previous count.
The final report with a more complete analysis of the count data is expected to be released in mid-2017.