Metro Vancouver count finds decrease in youth homelessness, increase among seniors
VANCOUVER -- The latest count of people experiencing homelessness in Metro Vancouver finds little change in the overall number, but significant changes in the age demographics of those included in the count.
Overall, the 2020 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver found 3,634 people experiencing homelessness in the region. That's an increase of 29 people since 2017, which was the last time a survey of homelessness in the entire region was done.
The majority of those people, 2,095, were counted in Vancouver, while Surrey (644) and Langley (209) had the next highest counts.
Of those counted, 2,605 were sheltered and 1,029 were unsheltered, according to a news release from the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association announcing the count's preliminary results.
Notably, the percentage of young people experiencing homelessness decreased by half in 2020 compared to previous years. People under the age of 25 accounted for eight per cent of the total homeless population in 2020, down from 16 per cent in both 2014 and 2017, the previous two editions of the region-wide survey.
At the same time, the proportion of people ages 55 and older who are experiencing homelessness rose slightly in the most recent count, from 23 per cent in 2017 to 25 per cent in 2020.
As has long been the case, people who identified as Indigenous made up a disproportionately high percentage of the homeless population in the region. Thirty-three per cent of people included in the count who responded to the survey's question on ethnicity identified as Indigenous. Indigenous people make up just 2.5 per cent of the region's total population.
“Homelessness continues to be a critical issue for which we have not found a solution,” said David Wells, chair of the Indigenous Homelessness Steering Committee, in the release. “The Indigenous community continues to bear the brunt of this crisis and the events of the past several months have only amplified this harm.”
This year's survey also found Black people overrepresented in the homeless population in Metro Vancouver, with roughly six per cent of those counted identifying as Black, compared to the 1.2 per cent of the region's population who are Black according to census data. This is the first year that the survey has included a question on racial identity (other than Indigenous identity), according to organizers.
“These results highlight the critical importance of collecting race-based data to assist us in service delivery and policy responses,” said June Francis, co-chair of the Hogan’s Alley Society's Board of Directors, in the BCNPHA release.
“The data should jolt us into action to ensure that racialized communities, notably the Black community who are disproportionately represented in the homeless count, receive the culturally and racially appropriate programs and services to provide better pathways to well-being."
Homeless counts have been conducted in Metro Vancouver every three years since 2002. They've also been conducted annually in the City of Vancouver since 2010.
Approximately 1,200 volunteers spent a 24-hour period conducting surveys and interviews in 18 different communities around Metro Vancouver, according to the BCNPHA.
The count provides a snapshot of the homeless population in the region at a specific point in time. This methodology determines a minimum number of people experiencing homelessness in a given region, according to count organizers.
The homeless count was conducted on March 3 and 4, before restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic had been put in place in B.C. As such, the results of the count may not reflect the current state of homelessness in Metro Vancouver, the BCNPHA said.