The British Columbia government says results from the latest surveys of people living on the streets show current support levels aren’t enough and more services are needed to address rising homelessness.
A statement from the Housing Ministry says a count of the homeless conducted in 20 B.C. communities over a 24-hour period showed an increase compared with previous counts in 2020 and 2021.
It says the counts provide a snapshot of information about the gender, age, ethnicity and health of those experiencing homelessness.
The ministry says this year’s effort found Indigenous people and former youth in care continue to be “significantly overrepresented.”
The Homelessness Services Association of B.C. conducted the Greater Vancouver count and identified more than 4,800 people experiencing homelessness in 11 communities, a 32 per cent increase compared with the previous count in 2020.
Housing Minister Ravi Khalon says the results of the counts reinforce the government’s belief that more needs to be done to help the most vulnerable.
“Because of global inflation, cities across North America are seeing an increase in vulnerable populations,” he says in a statement that also touts the province’s Belonging in BC plan to reduce and prevent homelessness.
“While the plan was only introduced this past spring, we’ve started to implement it immediately in order to build a stronger B.C. for everyone by helping those struggling to stabilize their lives.”
This year’s count in Greater Vancouver was carried out on March 7, and the Homelessness Services Association says the 32 per cent increase is the largest between consecutive counts since they began counting 18 years ago.
It says the greatest percentage increases were recorded in Delta, Richmond and the Tri-Cities, while Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey saw the greatest changes in the total number of people experiencing homelessness.
In Surrey, officials released a statement saying the count found 1,060 people, “a marked increase” from 644 in the 2020 survey.
A statement from Lorraine Copas, chair of the advisory board that co-ordinates federal funding in Greater Vancouver through the Reaching Home program, notes that many people are experiencing “hidden homelessness” and they’re under-represented in the counts.
Data from the provincially funded community figures will be combined with five federally funded and two independent counts to produce the full 2023 report on homeless numbers set to be released this winter, the B.C. government added.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2023.