Trent Parsons was at Our Place Society Thursday waiting to fill out a survey about his experience with homelessness.

“I sleep in the day and stay awake at night is what I do,” he said. “Basically near Crystal Pool the park there or any doorway I can find that’s safe.”

On Thursday, 200 volunteers headed out across Greater Victoria to count the number of homeless people in the region and hear more stories like Parsons.

“Where people are currently living, what the conditions are that led them to not having a permanent housing arrangement, what some of the causal pieces might be,” said volunteer Kelly Micetich-Roth.

This is the second federally-funded point in time count for Greater Victoria. The first took place in 2016 when there was a tent city on the Victoria courthouse lawn. At that time, volunteers counted roughly 1,400 people but many felt the true number was likely much higher.

“There’s people that are couch surfing, and people that are living in their cars, and people living off the grid and don’t want to be counted and because it’s voluntary you know if they don’t want to fill out the survey then they don’t have to,” said Our Place Society Executive Director Don Evans.

Since tent city, the government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on supportive and transitional housing, yet few believe this year’s count will be any lower.

“My gut answer to that is that it’s stayed about the same,” said Shannon Whissell with the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.  “Given the housing crisis, given wages not keeping up with food costs, all those things there’s a lot of contributing factors,” she said.

While there may be fewer chronically homeless people on the streets since the new housing was built, Our Place says it seeing a growing number of youth and seniors without homes.

“We’re seeing seniors as one of the areas that’s growing the most, they’re covering their health care costs and housing cost and often don’t have much left and often are in crisis,” said Evans.

“It’s going to be two or three years before we really start to see some additional housing come on stream.”

Trent Parsons says he gets only $375 a month to spend on shelter. He’s hoping to find a good roommate so he can afford a place to live.

“I try to stay positive. it’s worse in other parts of the world, so I look at it that way,” he said.

 

April Lawrence