For the first time, the BC government is releasing detailed information on those who experience homelessness – and the minister responsible for housing says he was surprised by the sheer number of people who were unhoused.
The Preventing and Reducing Homelessness Report compiled anonymized data from various ministries about who is winding up on the streets, in shelters, or their cars. It found that in any given month in 2019, more than 9,000 people in the province had no place to call home.
Over the course of the year, more than 23,000 people were homeless at some point.
“What the anonymized data that tells us is that more than twice as many people as you might see in any given month actually experienced homelessness,” said Housing Minister David Eby.
Men and Indigenous people overrepresented in the numbers. The report also found half the people were homeless for less than six months, and that the Cariboo, Central Interior and Alberni regions had the most unhoused people per capita.
Eby called it the “most accurate” picture of homelessness to date, and said BC is the first to use this type of aggregate data to make policy. The government is promising to provide more housing, financial supports and mental health and addictions help. An action plan is expected later this year, for an issue now worse due to the pandemic.
The opposition has been critical of temporary supports established by the province, saying they lack wraparound services that would allow people to successfully move into permanent homes.
“Nobody should have to live in conditions like that,” said Liberal Housing Critic Mike Bernier.
Bernier said he toured several sites, and at least one person said it was better living in a tent.
The government is promising to include input from those with lived experience of homelessness in their action plan. Officials said it will be a multi-pronged approach to underlying issues like mental health, addictions, and child poverty.
The most recent homelessness count from 2020/21 shows hundreds of kids in BC don’t have homes, and that number could be much higher. There’s a term called the “hidden homeless” for those who don’t get counted.
Eby said this group included women who might be staying in an unsafe relationship, as well as those who are couch surfing or otherwise not accounted for through the current data collection process.
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