WATCH: Results from the federal-government initiated Point in Time homeless count were released Friday and local officials say they are shocked by the number of children in our region who have no home
Pete Gould has been visiting Our Place for a meal and a hot cup of coffee since becoming homeless four years ago.
“Had some health problems and a marital meltdown and found myself downtown in 2012-ish and I’ve been struggling with housing issues and related issues ever since,” said Gould.
And there are hundreds just like Gould struggling with housing across Greater Victoria.
On February 10th, 250 volunteers set out across the region to count people living in shelters and on the streets.
The results were released Friday and found that 1387 people were experiencing homelessness in the region.
Officials agree the actual number is likely much higher.
“I think we’re in the range of 1700 to 1800 on an average night,” said Grant McKenzie with Our Place Society. “We are really in a crisis, it’s quite dramatic.”
The volunteers also conducted surveys to get a better idea of who is homeless and what their needs are.
It found nearly 33 per cent were women.
And most surprising to many local officials was that 243 were children: 120 youth and 123 under the age of 12.
“How do you raise a kid in a homeless shelter?” questioned Victoria Mayor and Co-Chair of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness Lisa Helps.
“We’re missing supports for parents, we’re missing affordable housing for families, those are some of the key things,” said Helps.
One finding that confirmed what many advocates already knew is that aboriginal people are over-represented — making up just five per cent of the region’s population but 33 per cent of the homeless population.
“They would love nothing more than to go home, to their home communities, but there is lack of housing to no housing,” said Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, Interim Executive Director for the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness
“In some communities, mine included, there are decade-long waiting lists,” she said.
And despite the widely held belief that many of the homeless in Greater Victoria are simply visiting from other, colder, parts of the country, the survey actually showed nearly 72 per cent have lived in the Victoria area for at least a year.
They are local residents like Pete Gould, who worked and raised a family in Langford, but now lives off disability payments.
“I think it’s $906 and $375 of that is designated for housing but that’s not realistic in this market,” said Gould.
And affordable, supported housing is what more than 90 per cent of those surveyed ultimately want.
The hope is that the Point in Time results will bring in federal money to help those people get off the streets for good.
Find the full Greater Victoria Point in Time count results here.