(Peace Arch News file photo)

Delta has largest proportion of homeless youth in Metro Vancouver

The final report for the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count showed half of Delta’s homeless were under 25

Delta has seen huge growth in the number of homeless youth, with nearly 53 per cent of Delta’s homeless population being under 25.

According to the final results of the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count, which was released on Tuesday, Sept. 26, Delta had 19 homeless in 2017. All of those 19 were unsheltered, meaning they either had no physical shelter overnight or they were staying temporarily at someone else’s house. In 2014, the last time the count took place, 10 people were sheltered, while only five were unsheltered.

At the time of the count, Delta had no shelters. Although extreme weather response shelters were in place in March, Delta’s Social Profile says the municipality “does not offer any emergency shelter for local or transient residents.” (A transition house for women and their dependent children who are at risk for violence or have experience violence in their homes has since been opened in the municipality.)

Related: Homeless in North Delta hard to find for Metro Vancouver’s count

In Delta, there were 10 unsheltered homeless youth under the age of 25. Although this makes up only three per cent of the total homeless youth in Metro Vancouver, it represents more than half of Delta’s homeless population.

This is the highest percentage of all Metro Vancouver communities. The next highest is Burnaby, at 24.6 per cent.

According to Gillian McLeod, corporate social planner for Delta, these numbers are all a significant undercount “because they have to be in front of you, and they have to be willing to answer the questionnaire.”

This year, there was a concerted effort to identify homeless youth, with volunteers from the count partnering with the Delta School District and the Boys and Girls Club to find them.

McLeod said it’s possible the next count could see an even greater emphasis on identifying homeless youth.

According to Barbara Westlake, area coordinator for Delta during the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count, the average age of the youth who were counted was 16. Many of them were still going to school.

According to the final count, 38 per cent of youth had been or currently are in the care of B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development. The count did not break down this data on a municipal level.

Related: Number of homeless in Delta up since last count

In earlier years, Delta was grouped with White Rock, meaning it’s hard to compare Delta’s homeless population. However, Delta and White Rock have seen a 142 per cent increase in homelessness since 2005, going from 12 individuals to 46.

Of those 46 individuals, just over 40 per cent were from Delta.

Nearly a quarter of Delta’s homeless were over the age of 55, as well as a quarter who identified as Aboriginal. Again, these individuals were all unsheltered.

Aboriginal people are over represented in the homeless count, making up 34 per cent of the homeless population. Only 2.5 per cent of the total Metro Vancouver population is Aboriginal.

Although it didn’t break down the data at a municipal level, the final homeless count showed that the main barriers to housing in Metro Vancouver were the high cost of rent, with 50 per cent of respondents choosing that answer; a lack of income, with 49 per cent choosing that answer; and being unable to find housing that suited their needs, with 34 per cent choosing that option. Another 19 per cent noted addiction as a barrier to housing.



grace.kennedy@northdeltareporter.com

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