Advertisement

Number of homeless people in Metro Vancouver rose slightly in pre-pandemic count

Click to play video 'Metro Vancouver homeless count shows only slight rise in numbers since 2017' Metro Vancouver homeless count shows only slight rise in numbers since 2017
Despite encampments moving from park to park in Metro Vancouver and at least one growing tent city, the 2020 homeless count shows the numbers haven't really changed since 2017 but as Catherine Urquhart reports, at least one vulnerable population is seeing an increase in homelessness.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Metro Vancouver has increased slightly over the past three years, preliminary data from the latest count shows.

The 2020 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver found 3,634 people in the region experiencing homelessness, which is an increase of 29 from the last regional count in 2017.

The survey, which took place on March 3 and 4, also found that homelessness among seniors continues to rise while Indigenous people remain disproportionately impacted by a lack of housing.

Click to play video 'Strathcona strife: escalating tensions over sprawling encampment in East Vancouver park' Strathcona strife: escalating tensions over sprawling encampment in East Vancouver park
Strathcona strife: escalating tensions over sprawling encampment in East Vancouver park

Homeless numbers in the City of Vancouver dipped slightly to 2,095, compared to last year’s total of 2,223, which was the highest number since the survey began in 2002.

Story continues below advertisement

The results come as the city deals with campers at its latest homeless encampment at East Vancouver’s Strathcona Park.

The report also found 644 homeless in Surrey, 209 in Langley, 123 in New Westminster and 121 on the North Shore.

Burnaby saw the biggest rise, of about 80 per cent, from 69 people in 2017 to 124.

Click to play video '2020 Metro Vancouver homeless count underway' 2020 Metro Vancouver homeless count underway
2020 Metro Vancouver homeless count underway

Indigenous people continue to be “significantly over-represented” in homeless data, according to the report. The group made up 33 per cent of the homeless population compared to 2.5 per cent of the overall population, according to 2016 census data.

“Homelessness continues to be a critical issue for which we have not found a solution,” David Wells, chair of the region’s Indigenous homelessness steering committee, said in a statement.

Story continues below advertisement

“The Indigenous community continues to bear the brunt of this crisis and the events of the past several months have only amplified this harm.”

Data on racial identity was collected for the first time in the regional count, and revealed that Black people were significantly over-represented.

Click to play video 'The problem with Metro Vancouver’s 2020 homeless count' The problem with Metro Vancouver’s 2020 homeless count
The problem with Metro Vancouver’s 2020 homeless count

Read more: Vancouver Park Board votes 4-3 to allow overnight camping in city parks

People 55 and older made up 25 per cent of survey participants, compared to 23 per cent in 2017. The number of participants aged 25 or younger fell by half — from 16 per cent in 2014 and 2017 to eight per cent this year.

The report, which was organized by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, noted the count took place before the implementation of measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it may not reflect the current state of homelessness in the region.

Story continues below advertisement

Roughly 1,200 volunteers helped count the number of people sleeping on the streets and in shelters.

The region-wide survey takes place every three years, while Vancouver has been conducting citywide surveys annually since 2010.

The final report is due this fall.

— With files from Sean Boynton