THE 12th annual Homeless Count in Vancouver saw a 2 per cent increase in homeless residents since the 2017 count. The count, held on March 13 and 14, found 2,181 residents facing homelessness in the city, an increase of 43 people from 2017, when 2,138 individuals were counted, the Vancouver City Council was informed on Tuesday.
Of those counted this year, 659 were living on the street and 1,522 were living in shelters, compared to 537 street homeless and 1,601 sheltered in 2017.
Fifty-two per cent of those counted reported being homeless for less than a year, showing the fluidity of homelessness year over year in Vancouver. In 2017, the Homelessness Service’s Outreach Team secured 850 homes for residents who were homeless or at risk of homelessness.
“Vancouver has taken bold steps to tackle homelessness, but this year’s numbers are a stark reminder that we need to keep doing more to help our most vulnerable,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Thanks to a strong partnership with the new BC Government, we’ve been able to house hundreds of people in a very short time. With hundreds of new temporary modular homes and permanent social housing set to open in the coming months, I’m confident we’ll make significant progress towards making sure that no one has to sleep outside at night in Vancouver.”
Key results from the count showed that:
* Homeless residents reflected in the Homeless Count make up 0.3 per cent of the overall population in Vancouver.
* 78 per cent of Vancouver’s homeless population are people who were already living in Vancouver when they became homeless.
* People of Indigenous identity continue to be vastly overrepresented in homelessness, making up 40 per cent of Vancouver’s homeless population but only 2.2 per cent of Vancouver’s overall population.
* For the first time this year, the Homeless Count reported on a breakdown in addictions as self-identified by respondents: 35 per cent of individuals responded as having no addictions, and 28 per cent said they were addicted to cigarettes followed by opioids with 25 per cent.
* One-fifth of respondents reported full-time and / or part-time employment as an income source but are still homeless with multiple sources of income. Income assistance and disability benefits are the top two sources of income with 38 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.
* 44 per cent reported a medical condition / illness; 43 per cent reported a mental health issue, 38 per cent reported a physical disability.
“Each year there are many factors that contribute to homelessness, and although this year’s numbers have stayed relatively steady people are still living in deep poverty,” says Ethel Whitty, Director of Homelessness Services. “Addressing homelessness is a challenging issue, but we are continuing to make significant efforts and actions with the ultimate goal of providing housing for everyone living on the street and in shelters.”
The City’s Homelessness Services Outreach Team connects with homeless people where they sleep and receives approximately 100 people as walk ins to the offices each day. In 2017, approximately 4,000 residents were served, of which about 2,000 were new to the service.
As part of this year’s winter response, the City, in partnership with BC Housing and non-profit operators, opened 300 temporary shelter spaces. This year, temporary shelters opened early and most will extend their season to allow more time for the City’s Outreach Team to find housing for the shelter residents who need support.
During the 2017/2018 winter, in response to cold weather and as part of the City’s Warming Centre Program, up to three Warming Centres opened a night to provide a safe, warm place for people on the street. From November 4, 2017 to March 24, 2018 centres opened on 32 nights, providing space for 80-90 people across the city. About 60 people on average used the centres each night across all sites. Warming Centres are activated as a life-saving response when the temperature drops to -5°C or below (or it feels like -5°C or below).
More than 400 volunteers talked with people experiencing homelessness in shelters and on the street to conduct the Homeless Count. The results show a snap shot at one point-in-time of homelessness in the City.
The full results of the Homeless Count can be found in a report that will be available to the public on June 19.
Tuesday’s presentation is available here