Homelessness is up in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and the entire region, according to the latest numbers from Metro Vancouver.
Region-wide, 30 per cent more people were homeless this year, compared to three years ago, according to Metro Vancouver’s 2017 homeless count, done over two days in March.
In Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, another 40 people were without homes, almost a 50-per-cent increase.
This year, a total of 124 people were homeless, compared to 84 from three years ago.
While there were more homeless people, there were fewer people actually living on the street or in the bushes and instead were in a shelter of some sort.
In 2014, 39 people in the Maple Ridge area were living outside, in door ways and stair wells, parkades and parks.
This year, only 30 people were doing that, a drop of 23 per cent.
The cold weather this year also affected the count. With the temperatures around 0 C, extreme weather beds were open, meaning more who’d normally be in tents, were inside sleeping on temporary mats.
In Maple Ridge during the count, 10 people were in extreme weather shelters, comprising part of the overall total of 124.
“We can and we are making significant inroads,” said Liberal candidate for Maple Ridge-Mission Marc Dalton.
In September, he and fellow Liberal candidate Doug Bing took over the consultation process for a new supportive housing complex and shelter in Maple Ridge. That remains in process.
Dalton said the government is addressing the issue.
A 60-bed affordable housing complex was announced in December for downtown Maple Ridge in association with Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Community Services.
“There’s lots we’re doing. We’ve put in more this year than any province has done in Canadian history,” Dalton said. “To say that we’re not doing anything is ridiculous.”
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said, had the supportive housing complex been built, the numbers would be even lower.
While the government is spending money, it has no systematic approach to issue, she added.
B.C. is the only province without a poverty reduction strategy.
“When you look at the numbers in Langley, I believe that had we not had the effort on this … our numbers would be more in line with Langley.”
Numbers of homeless in that city have doubled to 206.
“We’re just not looking at it, we don’t have a master plan, here are the steps we’re going to take …” Read said.
“The cost of living is increasing and people’s incomes are not going up. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that that’s a formula that’s going to put people on to the streets.”
The focus has to be on getting people from shelters into housing as soon as possible, she added.
According to B.C. Housing, in Maple Ridge, 439 people have been found homes in the last year.
The issue now faces every part of Metro Vancouver, said Mike Clay, with Metro Vancouver.
A total of 3,605 people were without a place to live throughout the region.