Results of the City of Vancouver’s March 24, 2015 homeless count were presented to City Council today (July 7).
On March 24, city enumerators counted 488 homeless people living on the streets and another 1,258 in shelters, for a total of 1,746.
This is slightly down from 2014, when a total of 1,803 homeless people were counted across the city, with 536 living on the streets and 1267 in shelters.
Even the city can’t spin the numbers into something positive, though it tries:
“The annual homeless count on March 24, 2015, revealed that even with the opening of 615 net new permanent and interim/supportive housing units over the last year which housed 458 street/sheltered homeless, a total of 488 homeless people remain unsheltered – a decrease of 10 percent in street homelessness compared to last year.”
Correct me if I’m wrong but I think that the number of unsheltered homeless people has only decreased by nine percent over the last year (536 to 488).
Something doesn’t add up
The City of Vancouver’s website still touts the 1,700 new supportive housing units it would have to put towards ending street homelessness by 2013—the year that the city’s stand-alone count only found a total of 1,600 homeless!
Add in the 458 unit mentioned in today’s press release and you have 2,158 units of dedicated homeless housing, which is 355 more units than the highest number of homeless the city has ever counted.
Yet there are still 1,746 homeless people in Vancouver—some living on the streets, more in temporary shelters, but all homeless.
The city’s media release says that of those counted in 2015, about 50 percent had been homeless for less than one year. This is another way of saying that about 873 of those homeless people were not in Vancouver in 2014 and it at least implies that an equal number were housed.
It would give some meaning to these homeless counts to know the housing side of the story:
- How many homeless people have been housed in each 12-month period?
- How long have they stayed housed?
- What is the annual recidivism rate (how many people end up back on the streets)?
- How many transition from fully paid-for and subsidized housing to independent housing?
As it is, the public is annually shown homeless numbers, which can be placed in no context whatsoever.
When the city’s press release ends with the statement that currently there are almost 4,000 people in Vancouver on B.C Housing’s waiting list for social housing; we can only assume that some of those waiting are experiencing homelessness.
But we don’t know that and you know what happens when you assume, right?
And wouldn’t we all like to know what this standalone 2015 homeless count and the reporting of the count cost the taxpayers of Vancouver?