Count reveals more than 1,500 people homeless in Greater Victoria prior to COVID-19 restrictions

Count reveals more than 1,500 people homeless in Greater Victoria prior to COVID-19 restrictions
File photo/CHEK
Tents in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park where many homeless individuals in Greater Victoria are residing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 1,500 people were found to be homeless in the Capital Regional District during a count that took place right before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place across the province.

On the evening of March 11, 1,523 people were found to be homeless in the capital region.

The Capital Regional District (CRD), in partnership with the Community Social Planning
Council (CSPC) and the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, conducted Greater
Victoria Point-in-Time (PiT) Count.

“The PiT count should be treated as an under-estimate. Some individuals value their privacy and prefer
not to participate in the survey while others experiencing ‘hidden’ homelessness are difficult to reach
and, therefore, would not be included in this count,” the CRD said in a release.

The 2020 PiT Count follows prior biennial counts made in 2016 and 2018 and is funded by the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homeless Strategy. In 2018, the number of homeless individuals was at 1,525.

However, the Capital Regional District says due to year-over-year changes in methodology, these two
numbers do not necessarily suggest trends in the region.

“The survey results are indicative of the vulnerability to homelessness people experience because of structural factors such as poverty, stigma and discrimination, a lacking in some key resources to address complex human needs and a lack of choice when trying to find safe and adequate housing with the proper supports,” Kelly Roth, executive director of Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness said in a statement.

Some of the key findings in the survey include:

  • The majority of unsheltered people (82 per cent) have been homeless for at least six months, an increase of 10 per cent from last year.
  • 63 per cent of homeless individuals identified as men, followed by woman at 33 per cent and transgender individuals at two per cent
  • Only 12 per cent of the homeless individuals have lived in Greater Victoria less than a year while 42 per cent have been in the area for more than five years.
  • 35 per cent (one third) of homeless individuals are Indigenous people, compared to the five per cent of Greater Victoria’s entire population

“Recognizing that there are unique drivers, experiences and needs of Indigenous homeless, there was a strong focus on reaching out to Indigenous People in this Point-in-Time Count. We drew together key Indigenous organizations to work together to reach out to the Indigenous homeless, particularly youth and those experiencing hidden homelessness that the Indigenous organizations often work with or support,” Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, executive director of the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness said in a statement.

An infographic showing a breakdown of Greater Victoria's homeless count. (CRD)

An infographic showing a breakdown of Greater Victoria’s homeless count. (CRD)

The results of the 2020 PiT Count and survey will be used with ongoing shelter-use data, as well as information gathered through planning, for the creation of a Coordinated Assessment and Access service and Homelessness Management Information System.

The CRD said the system will improve service delivery, real-time reporting of homelessness levels and “help achieve better outcomes for homeless individuals.”

The CRD said requirements for physical distancing and isolation within the COVID-19 public health emergency measures contributed to a significant increase in the number of people sheltering out-of-doors in parks and along boulevards following the March 11 count and survey.

A number of extreme weather shelters could not remain open beyond planned March 31 closures and established shelters had to substantially reduce nightly admissions due to physical distancing requirements.

And many people had to leave informal sheltering spaces, like couch surfing, with family and friends due to the need for physical distancing. Some people also left correctional and health institutions and became homeless.

And due to the closure and significant curtailment of outreach services, large numbers of unsheltered people went areas where limited services remained available at Pandora Avenue and in public spaces where emergency services were provided at Topaz Park.

About 134 individuals have found housing in hotels purchased by BC Housing, while 347 are currently being housed in hotel rentals in Victoria.

Read the full report here.


Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!