Volunteers counted 17 homeless people in Delta in March as part of the 2020 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count.
According to preliminary results released last week, 3,634 homeless people were identified across the region during the count, which was conducted on March 3 and 4 by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA).
A press release from the BCNPHA indicates that seniors’ homelessness continues to increase while Indigenous people remain “significantly” over-represented.
“Additionally, racial identity data collected for the first time in a regional count reveals that Black people were found to be disproportionately represented among racialized groups experiencing homelessness,” the press release says this year’s count revealed.
The communities with the highest numbers of individuals experiencing homelessness were Vancouver (2,095), Surrey (644) and Langley (209). Five communities — Surrey, Langley, Burnaby, Richmond and the North Shore — showed an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness, while Vancouver, the Tri-Cities, White Rock, Ridge Meadows, New Westminster and Delta showed small decreases.
This year’s count recorded 29 more homeless people than the previous count in 2017. Of the 3,634 individuals counted in 2020, 1,029 people were unsheltered and 2,605 were sheltered.
In Delta, nine people were counted as unsheltered, while eight were sheltered —three in Delta’s lone extreme weather shelter, located at Ladner United Church, and five in other shelters. The data did not specify which of the city’s communities individuals were counted in. Overall, volunteers counted two fewer homeless people in Delta than in 2017.
“The Homeless Count provides important insight into the diversity of individuals experiencing homelessness as well as the different challenges and circumstances they face,” Lorraine Copas, chair of the community advisory board that oversees the count, said in a press release.
“This year, we have continued to work to explore different methodologies and approaches to allow us to deepen our insight. At the same time, it is important to recognize that behind each of the statistics is someone who is living without a place that they can call their own and who deserves every chance to realize their full potential.”
This year marks the first time that the region count has included a racial identity-focused question.
“This question was to help inform a race-based analysis of people experiencing homelessness,” a BCNPHA press release states.
The results indicate that Black people are significantly over-represented among racialized groups experiencing homelessness, with six per cent of respondents identifying as Black compared to 1.2 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s overall population. Three per cent of respondents identified as South Asian, and another three per cent identified as Latin American.
“These results highlight the critical importance of collecting race-based data to assist us in service delivery and policy responses,” June Francis, co-chair of the Hogan’s Alley Society’s board of directors, said in a press 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.”
Indigenous homelessness also remains disproportionately high in Metro Vancouver. The 2020 count found 711 individuals who identified as Indigenous — a slight decrease of 35 individuals from the 2017 count. However, at 33 per cent of respondents, this group continues to be significantly over-represented among people experiencing homelessness when considering those who identify as Indigenous made up 2.5 per cent of the region’s overall population according to the 2016 census.
“Homelessness continues to be critical issue for which we have not found a solution,” David Wells, chair of the Indigenous Homelessness Steering Committee, said in a press 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.”
Meanwhile, the data shows that youth homelessness continues to decrease, with people under 25 years of age accounting for eight per cent of the homeless population in 2020 compared to 16 per cent in both 2014 and 2017. However, the number of seniors 55 and older continues to increase, accounting for 25 per cent of respondents in the 2020 count compared to 23 per cent in 2017.
The full report on the 2020 Homeless Count, which will include detailed data and information on demographic profiles, sources of income, health status and more will be released in the fall.
The Metro Vancouver Homeless Count is conducted every three years to estimate the number of people experiencing homelessness, obtain a demographic profile of those individuals, and identify trends compared to previous counts. Governments, funders and community agencies rely on data from homeless counts to help make informed policy and program decisions.
The count provides a snapshot of individuals experiencing homelessness in 18 communities across the region. The data was collected through surveys of people staying in shelters, transition houses, detox and other facilities on the night of March 3, and through interviews conducted on the street on March 4. As a point-in-time count, the process only determines a minimum number of people experiencing homelessness at a certain time.
This year’s count took place in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, before pandemic-related restrictions were in place. A BCNPHA press release notes that, given the economic impacts and policy responses around homelessness and housing stemming from the pandemic, the count data may not reflect the current state of homelessness in the region.
— with files from Tom Zytaruk