A point-in-time count conducted in March discovered more than 100 people in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows identified as homeless.
That is the finding of the 2020 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count.
In Ridge Meadows, volunteers who fanned out across both cities, counted a total of 114 homeless – 35 unsheltered and an additional 79 sheltered.
Of those that were sheltered: 12 were counted in an extreme weather response shelter; 60 in a temporary night shelter, winter response shelter, safe house or transition house, and seven were of no fixed address and counted in a jail, detox facility or hospital.
In 2017, the year of the last homeless count, 124 homeless people were counted, a figure that had been trending upwards since 2005 when only 44 people were counted.
In general the count showed that the number of people experiencing homelessness in Metro Vancouver has changed little since 2017.
However, the report advised that the count took place two weeks before the provincial government declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 and so the final report may not adequately reflect regional homelessness.
Data was collected starting the evening of Mar. 3 for a 24 hour period into Mar. 4, to give a snapshot of homeless in the region.
This was the first homeless count where individuals were asked whether they identified with any racial group or groups.
Results found that Black people were over-represented among identified racialized groups experiencing homelessness.
The report stated that Black people were 3.7 times more likely to experience homelessness compared to what their presence in the general population would predict.
Also, Latin American and Arab respondents were also over-represented, with Latin Americans being 1.7 times and Arabs 1.3 times more likely to experience homelessness.
Health issues were also factor with 87 per cent of individuals counted citing at least one health condition including a physical disability, illness, addiction, mental health issue or cognitive impairment. Of those, 60 per cent reported an addiction that included substance abuse, alcohol, cigarettes or gambling.
Findings also showed that more seniors, those 55 and older, were experiencing homelessness compared to youth, those 24 and younger, than in 2017. Seniors represented 24 per cent of the homeless population overall this year, up from 22 per cent three years ago.
“I think that homeless counts are effective as long as you keep in mind that there is a lot of hidden homeless within communities that are not counted,” said Mark Stewart, executive director of the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries.
Counts need to be done, he said, because it gives organizations ideas how to build infrastructure for people who are vulnerable.
“I think that we’re making headway,” he said of the lower Ridge Meadows count.
Community organizations that the Salvation Army works with in Maple Ridge are working together, more than they have ever been before, explained Stewart.
“And, we’re moving people from emergency shelter to transitional shelter, into private market housing, into detox centres and we’re just really working together to make sure we’re just a doorway so people can come in and find the way back to where they should be – which is their own home,” he added.
Homelessness fluctuates in communities depending on personal situations, continued Stewart.
“It’s a point-in-time count.”
“It shows you what’s happening in your community on that day and how you can improve on your services to make peoples’ lives better,” he said.
A point-in-time homeless count has been conducted in Metro Vancouver since 2002.