Count results show a slowing in the growth of homelessness in Vancouver over the last two years

However, homelessness is still at its highest level in Vancouver


Kennedy Stewart
Official photo

A presentation to Vancouver City Council on Wednesday showed that actions taken by the City and its partners are making an impact on the numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver. The preliminary results from the City of Vancouver Homeless Count indicate a two per cent increase in individuals experiencing homelessness. This represents a slowing of the growth of homelessness in the city over the last two years.

However, homelessness is still at its highest level in Vancouver since the count began in 2002. This year’s Count results are an indication that the housing affordability crisis and income inequality continue to have the most significant impact on those with the lowest incomes. Key results showed that:

  • 2,223 people were identified as experiencing homelessness. The majority, 72 per cent (1,609), were sheltered and 28 per cent (614) were unsheltered
  • The slight decrease in the number of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness shows the City and partners are doing a better job of creating space for people to come indoors
  • 27 per cent reported being homeless for less than 6 months showing how easily individuals can fall into homelessness in a City facing an affordability crisis.  Over time, the proportion of respondents who said they were homeless for more than one year is growing (56 per cent in 2019) highlighting the challenges individuals face securing housing.
  • 81 per cent of survey respondents were already living in Vancouver when they became homeless
  • 39 per cent of survey respondents identified as Indigenous and Indigenous people continue to be vastly overrepresented in the homelessness count in Vancouver compared to the overall population (2.2 per cent in the 2016 Census)

“While this year’s Homeless Count results show that the bold actions being taken by the City and its partners might be beginning to turn the tide on the growth of homelessness in Vancouver, there are still more than 2,000 people without a home in our city. This is unacceptable,” says Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “We’ve seen the Province come to the table with unprecedented investments, but the Federal Government’s pledge to cut homelessness in half hasn’t yet come with money on the ground and that’s the real missing piece.”

The City says it is optimistic that it can continue to improve its ability to meet the needs of those experiencing homelessness to make homelessness rare, brief and one time. This will require continued and increasing commitment from and collaboration with senior levels of government and creative approaches to addressing the underlying causes of homelessness, including the housing affordability crisis, lack of sufficient incomes, and service gaps that result in people having no place to turn but the homelessness services sector.

To continue efforts to address these causes and help to end homelessness, staff presented the following key actions to Council:

  • Using data to inform decision making, providing a better understanding of the nature of homelessness, helping to drive policies and initiatives to address homelessness.
  • Taking a more holistic, systems-based approach to ending homelessness with regional initiatives such as Home Front which aims to make homelessness rare, brief, and one time.
  • Driving leadership at the municipal level through new models and approaches to homelessness, such as warming centres, the establishment of low-barrier homelessness services like temporary winter shelters, and the STEP pilot  (Supporting Tenants, Enabling Pathways).

As part of Homelessness Action Week, which takes place every October to raise public awareness of homelessness and rally local solutions, Council also approved 14 Homelessness Services grants.

(Read more in the report here.)

The full preliminary results of the Homeless Count can be found in the presentation available online here. Wednesday’s report is available here.