Suraj Sangani, Arshpreet Singh and Winnie Lam, with the Maple Ridge Public Health Unit, put together hygiene bags during the 2020 Homeless Count at the Salvation Army Ridge Meadow Ministries earlier this year. (THE NEWS files)

Suraj Sangani, Arshpreet Singh and Winnie Lam, with the Maple Ridge Public Health Unit, put together hygiene bags during the 2020 Homeless Count at the Salvation Army Ridge Meadow Ministries earlier this year. (THE NEWS files)

Slight decrease in homelessness in Maple Ridge

2020 Homeless Count finds 114 people without housing in the city

There has been an eight per cent decrease in homelessness in Maple Ridge, according to the 2020 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver.

The count took place on March 3 and 4, and results were released on Aug. 5. They peg the number of homeless people in Maple Ridge at 114, which was down by 10 from the 2017 count of 124. Of those, 79 are in shelters, and 35 are unsheltered.”

The count is intended to be a 24-hour snapshot of the minimum number of people experiencing homelessness.

The total 3,634 people counted across the region remained relatively consistent with the 2017 count, with an overall increase of 29 individuals from the 3,605 in the last count.

The Salvation Army in Maple Ridge was a staging area for the count, and executive director Mark Stewart said his people got involved – with 1,200 volunteers across the region.

READ ALSO: Homeless counted in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

He said that in his experience, the count is quite accurate, particularly in the number of sheltered homeless on the day.

“These counts are important. We need to see what we’re working with, so we can make informed decisions,” he said.

The number is always a moving target.

Stewart said the focus of the Salvation Army has been to get their clients out of the shelter and into more permanent housing.

“For our experience, we are moving people out as we can. We get them housed,” he said.

The 80 bed shelter in Maple Ridge has not been full recently, he said, and over the last month they have moved 10 people into housing arranggements.

“That might not seem like a lot, but we’re in a crisis – we’re in COVID-19 – and it’s challenging.”

Premier John Horgan, who was in Maple Ridge for a health care announcement on Thursday morning, said the numbers were disappointing.

“I’m very, very sad that despite extraordinary efforts by all orders of government – municipalities, the federal government, the provincial government – to address homelessness, the numbers continue to rise,” he said.

He added the overdose crisis also continues to worsen, despite the best efforts of governments.

“Despite best efforts, despite knowing more now than we’ve ever known about addictions, about mental health challenges, and having a stand-alone ministry to deal with that and a housing plan that’s focused on housing vulnerable people, we still see numbers rising,” he said.

“So that tells me we have to roll up our sleeves and work a little bit harder.”

The count found that 34 per cent of homeless people identify as indigenous, compared to two per cent of the general population. Of the total in the region, 59 per cent were in Vancouver and 17 per cent in Surrey.

READ ALSO: First-ever youth homeless count finds 22 in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

The 2020 data shows that homelessness among young people continues to decrease, with people under 25 accounting for 8 per cent of the homeless population in 2020 compared to 16 per cent in both 2014 and 2017. The number of seniors 55 and older continues to increase, accounting for 25 per cent of respondents in the 2020 count compared to 23 per cent in 2017.

The full report on the 2020 Homeless Count, which will include detailed data and information on demographic profiles, sources of income, health status and more will be released in the fall.

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ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

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