Volunteers will be navigating the streets of Metro Vancouver for the first count of people living on the streets since the COVID pandemic began.
Starting the night of March 7, volunteers will spend 24 hours counting those experiencing homelessness in hopes of gathering valuable information for the province as well as service providers and non-profit agencies.
A non-profit organization that specializes in providing services to those living rough says the count is critical for the region.
“These aren’t just numbers — these are people,” Nicole Mucci said, a Union Gospel Mission spokesperson.
“This is a way for us to understand better how many people are truly facing life being unhoused.”
While the Point In Time Homeless Count has many uses, it provides a “common language” for all three government levels and non-profit organizations.
More than 400 volunteers are expected to participate in the count, according to the City of Vancouver.
“Although counts do not give us a full picture of the extent of homelessness, the counts provide critical information on the number and characteristics of the homeless population, and how the population has changed over time,” City of Vancouver staff said.
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The last count in Metro Vancouver was done in March 2020. That effort found that there were more than 3,000 people unhoused on any given night in Metro Vancouver.
The Union Gospel Mission says typically the count is an “undercount,” a baseline for understanding.
“The reality is the population is two or three times the number of people counted because people have to self-identify (through a survey),” Mucci said.
“We were full almost every night in 2022. On average we were turning away around six people a night (at a shelter in Vancouver).”
The mission said it expects the count to be much higher than ever before.