Metro Vancouver’s homeless people are more concentrated in encampments and near support services.
That’s according to Kishone Roy, CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, which is undertaking this week’s homeless count in Metro Vancouver that happens every three years. Statistical data from the count will be released in April.
“The tent city or encampment phenomenon is extremely widespread,” said Roy. Usually, he said, homelessness is an isolating factor and makes it hard to reach out for help.
More than 1,200 volunteers tallied up numbers of homeless people in the region’s shelters on Tuesday night and on the streets on Wednesday.
— BCNPHA (@BCNPHA) March 9, 2017
This year is also the first time that people sleeping on derelict boats will be counted.
“We heard that people are sleeping there, but we have no sense as to whether those numbers will be significant,” said Roy.
Last time, the count captured 2,777 homeless people, up four per cent from 2008. The two most common reasons were high rent and low income.
— SFU’s Surrey Campus (@sfusurrey) March 9, 2017
Roy said he wants the data to be used to help triage homeless people by getting the most vulnerable housed first.
“We haven’t built social housing in 25 years in any large magnitude,” he said, adding that neither disability nor social assistance is enough to afford rent in most parts of B.C.
The biggest drop in rental housing is near transit lines, he said.
“British Columbia has done a good job, not a great job, of building density along transit lines but it’s been largely condos, which means that rental units.”
Transit development in recent years has included the Evergreen Line and will soon include light rail transit in Surrey.
“As Surrey is planning and building this line, they need to make sure that the housing is rental and social housing, rather than just letting the market decide.”