Vancouver's homeless population climbs by 30 pct

Added On April 11, 2017

VANCOUVER, April 10 (Xinhua) -- A total of 3,605 people in Metro Vancouver have been identified as homeless, according to the preliminary findings of a report by a non-profit housing organization.

The count, conducted over 24-hours on March 8, 2017, found that the number of homeless people in the region increased from 2,777 people in 2014 to 3,605 this year - a 30 percent increase.

80 percent of those counted as homeless were under the age of 19, and 34 percent were First Nations people.

Of those counted, 1,032 had no shelter whatsoever and were found staying in alleys, doorways, parkades and vehicles. The number of homeless people without shelter increased by 8 percent over the last count in 2014.

Another 2,573 of those counted had shelter at the time of the count. Among them, 256 individuals were staying in Extreme Weather Response shelters due to bad weather.

With shelters across the region operating at capacity, those staying in the emergency shelters would likely have been counted on the street had the shelters not been operating, the report said.

Vancouver tallied the largest number of homeless people, with 2,138, followed by the City of Surrey with 602 people.

Metro Vancouver has a regional population of about 2.5 million people.

The homeless count is conducted once every three years and was prepared for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy's Community Entity Metro Vancouver. The preliminary findings were released on Monday.

The count aims to estimate the number of people who are homeless in the region, which includes the City of Vancouver and about dozen other urban municipalities in the area. It also obtains a demographic profile of the population, and identifies trends compared to previous counts.

In 2008, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson vowed to eliminate street homelessness from the city. But now, in his third term in charge of Canada's third-largest city, the numbers of people living on the street appears to be climbing.

The city, which usually experiences milder, wetter winters than all of Canada's other major cities, remains in the grips of a housing crisis of several stripes. The city's rental housing market is notoriously expensive and competitive, with a vacancy rate of less than 1 percent. Meanwhile, the average benchmark price of a home in the region is about 920,000 Canadian dollars.

"Homelessness is one of the most pressing issues faced by communities across Canada, said Lorraine Copas, the chair of the Metro Vancouver Homelessness Partnering Strategy Community Advisory Board.

She said the harsh effects of homelessness cannot be overlooked. "The findings from the most recent homeless count remind us of the importance of continuing to work together to find ways to address the needs of those who face a constant struggle in finding and keeping a place that they can afford," she said in a statement released to the media.

"This latest count shows us that the homelessness crisis continues to grow despite all previous efforts and commitments to stem the tide," said Mike Clay, the mayor of the Metro Vancouver city of Port Moody, and a representative of the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

"Homelessness is no longer a problem isolated to densely-populated urban areas, it now affects every corner of Metro Vancouver," he said.

The final report is expected in mid-2017 and will include a more detailed analysis of the data, including survey questions of the respondents.