Half of the people who are homeless in Metro Vancouver say high rents are keeping them on the streets, according to the final report on the region’s homeless count.
Some 3,605 people are now homeless in Metro Vancouver, according to the count carried out between March 7 and 8 this year.
Held every three years, the homeless count is meant to provide a conservative estimate of homelessness over a 24-hour period in Metro Vancouver.
This year, around 1,200 volunteers dealt with snow and cold as they walked the streets, visited shelters, and conducted surveys over a 24-hour period.
According to the final report on the count, they found more people are homeless in Vancouver than any other city in the region, with 2,138 people living on the streets.
Here’s a quick roundup of the main findings confirmed in the final 2017 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver Report. Scroll to the bottom for some graphics.
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Finding a home
Half of the homeless people polled in Metro Vancouver said high rents were stopping them finding a home.
Some 49% also blamed a lack of income, while 30% blamed a lack of suitable housing.
The homeless people surveyed reported a range of different sources of income, including 42% who received Income Assistance.
Some 28% got a disability benefit, 15% earned money binning/bottle collecting and 22% had a part- or full-time job.
A massive 82% of those homeless people polled had at least one health condition, including addiction, mental illness, physical disability or a medical condition/illness.
More than half of the homeless people surveyed in Metro Vancouver have two or more health conditions to cope with.
Of the homeless people polled, about a third were living unsheltered, meaning 1,032 were making their own sleeping arrangements, rather than go to a shelter.
Some 44% of those unsheltered people slept outside, with 26% stopping at someone else’s place, 9% living in a makeshift shelter or tent, and 6% sleeping in their vehicle.
Most of those living unsheltered said they decided against staying in a shelter because they disliked doing so, didn’t feel safe, had been turned away, or could stay with a friend.
However, in what may be a reflection of Metro Vancouver’s growing housing crisis, people’s ability to stay with a friend had dropped from 27% in 2014, to just 20% in 2017.
Of the 2,573 homeless people who were sleeping sheltered, most said they stayed overnight in homeless shelters, transition houses or safe houses.
Meanwhile, 267 people with no fixed address were sleeping in hospitals, jails and detox facilities.
Who are our homeless people?
Indigenous and Aboriginal people made up the biggest group of people living homeless in Metro Vancouver, representing 34% of all respondents to the survey.
Overall, 201 children under 19 years old were counted as homeless, with another 185 young people between 19 and 24 years old also living on our streets.
However, young people under the age of 25 represented only 16% of all homeless people surveyed, down from 20% in 2014.
Meanwhile, the proportion of seniors finding themselves homeless has increased, with 380 homeless people between 55 and 65 years old participating in the survey.
Some 176 seniors above the age of 65 were also found to be living homeless. Overall that means 23% of our homeless people are seniors, up from 18% in 2014.
As well, men still make up most of the homeless people polled. Some 1,688 men were counted as homeless – representing 72% of our homeless population.
Some 628 women represented 27% of homeless people polled, while 25 homeless people with other gender identities represented 1% of the homeless population.
Where are our homeless people from?
Most homeless people polled were long-time residents of their community.
Half of those surveyed said they had lived in the city where they were interviewed for 10 or more years, including 16% who said “they had always lived here.”
Among the 22% who had moved in the last year, about 30% had only moved from elsewhere in Metro Vancouver, while 27% had come from elsewhere in BC.
Only 30% said they had come from other parts of Canada.
Hidden homeless people
While all these figures are shocking in themselves, it’s worth remembering the homeless count is inherently an undercount, for various reasons.
Firstly, there are homeless people who chose not to be interviewed for the count, tired of being surveyed without seeing any changes or benefit to their lives, says the report.
Others prefer to stay hidden, says the report, while many fear the stigma of being identified as homeless. Young people in particular feel this stigma and are difficult to find.
In addition, the report says there is concern that women who are homeless, but who are coping by staying in unsafe conditions, are not being counted.
The report admits the count likely did not get a clear picture of all those people without a secure, regular address, and who may be temporarily “couch surfing.”
Other hidden homeless people not polled include those who are deep in forests or parks, in nooks and crannies or in abandoned buildings where volunteers could not find them.