Homeless count takes place next Tuesday and Wednesday

Growth in Langley homeless population is again expected, as some have come here from Abbotsford.

Volunteers and outreach workers will take to the streets, bridges and known places where homeless people will be on Tuesday night, March 11 and Wednesday, March 12 for the 2014 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count.

Fraser Holland, Langley’s homeless outreach program manager, predicts that Langley will once again see an increase in the homeless population.

Some of this is due to the situation happening in Abbotsford, he said. There a bylaw prohibiting homeless camps has been strictly enforced along with strong crime prevention policy enacted by Abbotsford Police, said Holland.

This has encouraged many homeless people to move on and into Langley and other neighbouring communities, he said.

The count is a 24-hour snapshot that is done every three years. The results help policy makers and community agencies fund programs and services.

The last count in 2011 had some staggering numbers for Langley. According to the 2011 report, Langley has had the largest percentage increase of homeless people since the count started in 2002.

From the 2008 to the 2011 count, Langley had the second highest increase in Metro Vancouver.

Holland said, based on those statistics, the province funded the outreach program, hiring an additional full-time outreach worker in 2012, and opening of the Starting Point Outreach Services office in Langley City.

Outreach has worked with more than 1,500 homeless people, connecting them to services, housing, financing and medical help.

The homeless count also directed the need for a homeless shelter and that led to the opening of the Gateway of Hope in 2009.

Holland has long been speaking about his concern for the number of aging homeless people in Langley.

“In the last two months, Starting Point Outreach has worked with 84 people aged 55 and older,” he said.

The challenge with older people who are homeless is they have more historical issues, physically and  cognitively, and there is also often  a lack of family support.