Annual count aims to track number of homeless; numbers in 2014 doubled
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
The city of Vancouver began its homelessness count for 2015 on March 26.
Each year, the city annually works to keep track of how many homeless people live in the city. The count involves research into whether those who are considered homeless have an income, how old they are, their identified gender, and if they have a history of illness, as well as several other factors.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who was re-elected in November 2014, held a press conference at the start of the 2015 count. Robertson had previously promised during his 2008 election campaign to “end homelessness” by the year 2015, yet numbers have notably increased during his time as mayor.
“We pushed really hard and had success in getting people off the street,” Robertson announced to media, “It doesn’t end today.”
There was a cause for alarm in 2014 when the previous year’s count noted that the number of homeless had “nearly doubled” to 538, many media outlets reported. The number referred to those who were counted for sleeping on streets in Vancouver. The Vancouver Sun reported that in 2011, the number of homeless was as low as 154.
One of the reasons believed to have increased the homeless number, according to Metro Vancouver, is increasing housing costs. The average cost of Single Room Occupancies climbed to $485 from $469, despite the fact that many homeless only receive $375 from welfare.
While 14 permanent affordable housing buildings operate in BC, the number is not high enough to keep up with not just Vancouver’s growing homeless numbers, but all of BC’s.
CBC found numbers of homeless were also increasing in areas of BC such as Nelson and Nanaimo, reporting that “roughly 200 to 300 homeless people” currently resided in Nanaimo. In addition, community coordinator for the Nelson Committee on Homelessness Ann Harvey told CBC, “We’ve found families sleeping in cars, sometimes camped out in a stairwell occasionally, so they really have no stable housing situation.”
In November 2014, Megaphone Magazine published “Dying on the Streets,” a report that tracked the lives of many of BC’s then-known homeless between 2006 and 2013. In that time, the report noted, “at least 271 homeless people died in British Columbia.”
In January 2015, Vancouver’s RainCity Housing announced they were aiming to complete a permanent affordable housing shelter in Coquitlam, as numbers of homeless have also risen in the tri-cities of Coquitlam, New Westminster, and Port Coquitlam.
Metro Vancouver reported that final numbers from this year’s count are expected to be revealed within the next several weeks.