VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Right across Metro Vancouver today volunteers are out on the street and in shelters counting the number of homeless people. And there are fears the high price of housing is actually pushing more people to the breaking point.
There are some predictions the homeless population has grown significantly because of the affordable housing crisis, among other reasons.
Jeremy Hunka with the Union Gospel Mission on East Hastings Street on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside expects to see more people who are recently homeless. “With the really extreme affordability crisis where people just can’t find a place to stay at an affordable rent, we are seeing people who were never before on the brink of homelessness being pushed right to the edge.”
The Metro Vancouver Homeless Count happens every three years to help plan and prioritize resources. Early results are expected in April and it was recently estimated that the homeless population has ballooned as much as 44 per cent to 4,000 people.
“The Homeless Count is crucial because we need to know how many people are homeless, where they are and why — if we are going to move on with ending homelessness — this will give us great insight. We’ll get a demographic and profile of the population and be able to identify trends compared to previous homeless counts. We can’t end homelessness before we understand it as it is right now in Metro Vancouver,” explains Hunka.
He says there are also growing concerns that there are a high number of seniors living on the streets or in shelters. “The Metro Vancouver Homeless Counts have shown more and more seniors, that’s people 55-years-old and older, have been counted on the streets. Just 51 seniors were identified in the 2002 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count and then in the last one in 2014 that number shot up to 371.”
The last count found an estimated 2,777 homeless people in Metro Vancouver.
Count highlights vulnerable young people
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read says the projected increase of the count includes a number of vulnerable young people.
“In Surrey, they recently had a young adult who had aged out of care who died in a tent. This is a really significant issue everywhere,” explains Read. “How many reports does the Representative for Children and Youth have to put out in this province for somebody to realize, a lot of these kids are really falling through the cracks and ending up on our streets. It’s totally unacceptable.”
Read says BC should have provincial governance when it comes to dealing with homelessness.
“We need to make sure that our kids are not entering pathways that lead to homelessness down the road and our most acute are our kids in care because we know that there’s a lot of emotional issues attached to our kids who are in care and we need to get in and we need to support them. These are our children.”
She adds the issue of homelessness is not something reserved for Downtown Vancouver or Surrey but also significantly affects the outer regions and the Fraser Valley.
The group behind the 2017 count is calling for the province to add 3,000 new housing units over the next few years, and a BC strategy on homelessness.