Maple Ridge was the only municipality in Metro Vancouver where the number of homeless people increased in the past three years.
One hundred and two people were found to be homeless in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows during the 2011 Greater Vancouver Homeless Count conducted in March, according to a census released Tuesday by Metro Vancouver.
That is up from 90 in 2008.
Of the 102 – 40 were housed in emergency shelter facilities, while one person was listed as having no fixed address.
The municipalities were the only places in Metro Vancouver where the number of street homeless rose – to 61 from 40.
The biggest drops in street homeless were found in Vancouver (down to 145 from 815), Surrey (down to 231 from 307), the Tri-Cities (down to 27 from 76) and New Westminster (down to 39 from 72).
The results of the census didn’t surprise staff at the Salvation Army’s Caring Place shelter in Maple Ridge.
“We knew there had been an increase, but it’s always shocking to see it on paper,” said executive director Kathie Chiu.
The shelter has seen a steady increase in demand for its meal services in the past year and now serves an average of 10,000 meals per month, up by 1,000 since the beginning of fall.
Maple Ridge has also lost several “single room occupancy” facilities since the last homeless count.
“There was a loss of accommodations, so there are fewer places for us to find homes for people in the community,” said Chiu.
The shelter is also seeing an increase in people from outside Maple Ridge, some drifting through town from as far away as Calgary and Nova Scotia.
This year’s count also identified a growing homeless youth population, one that was tallied at 29 this year, up by 22 from 2008.
Chiu said the growing youth population shows there is a need for a low-barried youth shelter in Maple Ridge.
“These are the next generation of kids coming out of foster care,” said Chiu.
Putting a dent in the homeless numbers will mean increasing the availability of affordable housing locally.
“But at the same time, nobody wants to build public housing because they think they create ghettos,” she said.
The continued rise in the homeless population doesn’t sit well with Maple Ridge mayor Ernie Daykin.
He doesn’t see as many people on the street when he is downtown and he’s stopped receiving weekly phone calls from residents complaining about homeless camps.
He wants to find out what methods were used by census volunteers to tally the homeless this year.
“If the numbers are borne out, we will work with them,” said Daykin.
“It doesn’t seem right given the fact that everyone else had their numbers go down. It seems at odds with my own sense of what’s out there.”
When Metro Vancouver conducted its last count in 2008, the number of homeless people in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows more than doubled from the previous one. Ninety people were found to be with no roof over their heads in the municipalities, up from 42 in 2005.
The count has been conducted every three years since 2002.
The total number of homeless people in Metro Vancouver municipalities (including street and sheltered) from this year’s count:
• Vancouver – 1,605 (up from 1,547 in 2008);
• Surrey – 388 (down from 402);
• Tri-Cities – 47 (down from 94);
• Burnaby – 73 (down from 86);
• Langley – 60 (down from 86);
• New Westminster – 124 (no change);
• North Shore – 117 (down from 123);
• Maple Ridge – 102 (up from 90);
• Richmond – 48 (down from 56);
• Delta – 5 (down from 17).