Advocates anticipate this year's Metro Vancouver Homeless Count will be higher than previous years'
Advocates are predicting this year's Metro Vancouver Homeless Count will be higher than previous years' due to lingering impacts from the pandemic, job losses and inflation.
Rachael Allen, a spokesperson for Union Gospel Mission, says based on what the organization is hearing anecdotally about food and housing insecurity, she’s predicting there will be more people experiencing homelessness once the results from the count are published.
Allen said UGM can’t keep up with demand for shelter space.
“All of last year in 2022, we were nearly at full capacity almost every single night and on average, we had to turn away about six people every single night because we didn’t have space for them,” she told CTV News.
Stephen D’Souza, the executive director of Homeless Services Association of B.C. said his group is also anticipating a larger number of unhoused people.
“Despite a lot of work being done by local governments, provincial governments and federal governments, it really hasn’t met the need in the community,” he said.
The association will be leading this year’s count, which is set to occur March 8. The last count was done in 2020, prior to the pandemic, and showed 3,634 people experiencing homelessness in Metro Vancouver, with Black and Indigenous people overrepresented relative to their share of the general population.
The Homeless Count provides a 24-hour snapshot of homelessness, and both Allen and D’Souza are aware it doesn’t provide an accurate picture of the crisis. The count often fails to take into account the region’s hidden homeless population, which can include youth, trans people, and women fleeing abuse.
“Oftentimes, they’re in situations where they’re maybe couch-surfing or sleeping in their car or in other hidden ways that make it difficult to connect with them,” Allen said.
In addition to recording how many people are experiencing homelessness, a survey is also conducted to record demographic information such as health and race-based data. Allen said 2020 was the first time the count recorded racial data.
D’Souza said the association is currently looking to recruit up to 1,200 volunteers to take part in the initiative. Once the count is completed, he said results will likely be published by late summer or early fall.
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