The region is gearing up for its homeless count next month and is calling for volunteers – especially in Surrey – to help make it happen.
Metro Vancouver conducts a homelessness count every three years to determine the size, demographics and scope of the homeless population.
The region and the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA) are conducting another day-long Metro Vancouver Homeless Count on Wednesday, March 8.
Most of the volunteers are in place, but 210 are still required, with more than half of the shortfall in Surrey.
In all, 120 more volunteers are needed in Surrey, and 30 are needed in New Westminster, Burnaby and North Vancouver.
The volunteer shifts span two hours on the March 8 day-long count. Those offering their time are also required to take part in an orientation prior to the outreach, which counts people in homeless shelters and on the streets.
“The homeless count is a key part of the effort to eliminate homelessness,” said Kishone Roy, CEO of BCNPHA. “It will give us a sense of the numbers of homeless, the demographics and the trends. And it will allow us to understand where gaps in the system are and what future services might be needed.”
The last count, conducted in 2014, revealed the number of homeless people in Metro Vancouver rose five per cent from the count done three years prior.
The overall count in the region three years ago was 2,770, up from 2,670 in 2011.
However, the number of absolute street homeless (unsheltered) skyrocketed by 26 per cent to 957 in the region. The bulk of those people (538) were in Vancouver.
Most other areas, including Surrey, saw street homelessness climb by 35 to 40 per cent.
The last count was the fifth enumeration done since the project began in 2002.
Aboriginal people are over-represented, making up 582 of the homeless (31 per cent) counted in 2014.
Roy said there are far-reaching social costs associated with homelessness in this country.
“Homelessness costs the Canadian economy $7 billion per year,” said Roy. “Thousands of people in Metro Vancouver experience homelessness firsthand. But the societal impacts of homelessness are far-reaching and impact everyone in our communities.
“By participating as a volunteer, by being part of the conversation about affordable housing, you can help solve homelessness and reduce the human costs and the costs to society,” Roy said.
Those interested in volunteering can sign up online at www.bcnpha.ca/call-volunteers/
Total homeless in 2014:
• Vancouver: 1,798 (up from 1,581 in 2011)
• Surrey: 403 (up from 400)
• North Shore: 119 (down from 122)
• New Westminster: 104 (down from 132)
• Langley: 92 (down from 103)
• Maple Ridge: 84 (down from 110)
• Tri-Cities: 55 (up from 48)
• Burnaby: 58 (down from 78)
• Richmond: 38 (down from 49)
• Delta/White Rock: 19 (up from 14)