The number of homeless people in Vancouver has increased for the third year in a row.
According to a staff presentation made at city council today (May 1), there were 2,181 people sleeping in a shelter or on the street the night that the count was conducted.
That’s up from 2,138 last year, 1,847 in 2016, and 1,746 in 2015.
Of Vancouver’s 2,181 homeless people, 1,522 were sheltered on the night of the count and 659 were unsheltered.
Men accounted for 74 percent of Vancouver’s homeless population and 71 percent fell between the ages of 25 and 54.
Some sections of the presentation were predictable. “People who are homeless consistently report a range of health issues,” reads on slide.
It states that 43 percent of homeless people living in Vancouver have a mental-health issue and 38 percent have a physical disability.
Twenty-five percent described themselves as addicted to opioids, 23 percent to methamphetamine, 12 percent to cocaine, and 22 percent to alcohol.
Other statistics in the presentation are somewhat unexpected.
For example, this year’s homeless count found that 37 percent of those surveyed reported multiple income sources. The most common were income assistance (38 percent) and disability benefits (29 percent). But 19 percent, or roughly one in five homeless people, said they were employed.
In perhaps another finding that some might consider surprising, the report states that 78 percent of respondents were living in Vancouver when they became homeless and another 12 percent were from other parts of B.C. Only 10 percent of Vancouver’s homeless population said they relocated from out of province when they became homeless.
The report also sheds some light on how intractable a problem homelessness can be. It states that 21 percent of respondents were homeless for more than six months and 48 percent were homeless for more than one year.
Repeating findings from the city’s 2017 count, the report states that in 2018, a shocking 40 percent of Vancouver’s homeless population identifies as Indigenous. That compares to just 2.2 percent of the general population.
Of Indigenous people who were homeless in Vancouver, 46 percent, or 288 people, were sleeping on the street.
Across Metro Vancouver (including the city of Vancouver), the annual survey found that there were 3,605 people in the region who were homeless on the night of the count. Each year, officials emphasize that the region's homeless count is only a conservative estimate that does not catch people who are homeless but have somewhere to stay, on the couch of a friend or family member, for example.