The Capital Regional District and community partners have released the latest count of homeless people across Greater Victoria on Thursday.
The Point in Time (PiT) survey was conducted on March 7, and was the first time it took place since 2020.
The survey found 1,665 people were homeless across Greater Victoria on March 7, with 765 people participating in the survey.
PiT organizers note that this total is likely an underrepresentation of how many people are homeless in the region, as it is impossible to reach everyone who is homelessness, and some people may be experiencing “hidden homelessness,” such as couch surfing or staying with a friend.
This year’s total was higher than the 1,523 people that were determined to be homeless in Greater Victoria in March 2020, though organizers stress that one-day counts are only a snapshot of homelessness in the region, and that the two totals should be treated as approximations and not exact statistics.
This year’s survey found that more than 1,000 people who were considered homeless had a form of provisional housing, such as transitional housing or staying at a friend’s house, motel, or with a family member.
Another 524 were completely unsheltered or were staying at emergency shelters, such as seasonal shelters, youth shelters, or shelters for emergency accommodation.
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Most of the people who participated in the survey had been homeless for a long period of time, with 67 per cent reporting that they had been homeless for more than six months over the past year, and 50 per cent saying they had been homeless for more than 365 days.
Most participants were from B.C., with 82 per cent living in Greater Victoria for longer than a year, and 55 per cent coming from other regions of the province.
A total of 19 per cent of participants said they had lived in Greater Victoria all their lives.
Nearly two thirds of people in this year’s count were male, at 65 per cent, followed by 27 per cent identifying as female. Others reported themselves as gender diverse or did not provide an answer.
Nearly one quarter of all survey respondents, 24.8 per cent, were seniors over the age of 55, with the oldest respondent being 76.
Most respondents fell in the age range of 25 to 54, at 65 per cent, while 7.7 per cent were youth, with the youngest respondent being 14 years old.
There continues to be an overrepresentation of Indigenous people experiencing homelessness in Greater Victoria, according to the PiT report, with nearly one third of survey respondents identifying as Indigenous, despite Indigenous people only making up five per cent of Greater Victoria’s population, according to 2021 census data.
“This is consistent with findings in previous PiT Surveys for Greater Victoria and the broader literature, which indicate the significantly higher likelihood of homelessness for Indigenous peoples due to systemic barriers, racial discrimination, and the intergenerational trauma of colonization and experiences of residential and day schools,” reads the PiT report.
Health and housing barriers
Substance use and mental health issues were common among survey respondents, according to the PiT report.
Roughly two thirds of respondents, or 67.5 per cent, reported having a substance use issue, while 61.2 per cent identified as having a mental health issue.
The survey also found that Greater Victoria’s tight housing market and low vacancy rate were common barriers to finding housing in the region.
More than half of respondents, at 56.1 per cent, said high rents prevented them from finding housing, while 52.9 per cent cited low incomes as a barrier to housing.
Roughly 49 per cent also said that low vacancy in the region was a reason why they were unable to secure housing.
“There is a common misconception that individuals experiencing homelessness do not want to get into some form of permanent housing; however, only 4.7 per cent of respondents said they did not want housing,” the report reads.
The CRD says the PiT survey is just one tool that can help local governments and the community plan ways to manage homelessness in the region.
“The results of the 2023 PiT demonstrate that, in spite of best efforts, far too many continue to experience homelessness in our region,” said Sylvia Ceacero, executive director of the Alliance to End Homelessness in the Capital Region.
“The suffering and the long-term effects of homelessness cannot be underestimated,” she said. “As a community, we have to do better: better at addressing the pathways into homelessness; better at supporting our unhoused neighbours; better at providing the conditions that will see everyone housed, healthy and thriving. We must not confuse movement with action and we must continue to prioritize prevention strategies and actions that will yield tangible, permanent results.”