Point-in-Time 2023 homelessness count jumps in Cowichan Valley

Point-in-Time 2023 homelessness count jumps in Cowichan Valley

It’s a 24-hour snapshot of homelessness in the Cowichan Valley.

And for many, including Cowichan Housing Association executive director Shelley Cook, the numbers from this year’s Point-in-Time count are no surprise

“While we’ve seen an escalation and increase in homelessness across the board. We also know it’s an undercount,” Cook said.

The count identified 223 individuals in the Cowichan Valley who are experiencing homelessness. That’s a 58 per cent jump from 2020 when 129 people were counted.

The survey also found that 46 per cent of those surveyed identify as Indigenous, the majority of those with a family history of attending residential schools.

“It’s shocking. It’s incredibly disappointing. We’re looking at about 50 per cent of individuals surveyed,” Cook said.

“What we know is 13 per cent of our population is actually Indigenous. Disproportionately represented among the homeless population. Just speaks volumes to the abject failure to support Indigenous people.”

The top reason many give for housing loss is the cost of living in the Cowichan Valley.

That includes 37 per cent who report that they can’t afford the cost of housing. Thirty-one per cent who responded said they struggle with substance abuse, with another 22 per cent having had a conflict with their landlord.

Many are fleeing domestic abuse or some other form of abuse.

Duncan mayor Michelle Staples said there are several factors for the increase in homelessness, including the loss of affordable housing units, renovictions, cost of living, and an increase in population.

“There are so many reasons people are getting pushed out of the market.  And so the numbers, although very sad to see, aren’t shocking because of all the challenge we know people have been experiencing over the past few years,” Staples said.

Tanner Murray spent years as a teen on the street and struggled with addiction.

Now a volunteer for the Point-in-Time survey, he says the number of youths is also under-represented in the survey.

“It’s hard to get information from them because they have a really hard time trusting. That you are somebody they can trust with that information, especially because they don’t want to out where they are staying, where their friends are,” Murray said.

Organizers hope the survey information will help increase affordable housing options through research and community development.

WATCH: Point-in-Time Count gets underway to provide clearer picture of homelessness in Victoria

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!