Vancouver's 2016 homeless count reveals a 10-year high for people sleeping in shelters and on the street

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      In 2016, there were more homeless people living in Vancouver than at any other time since the city began doing counts in 2005.

      According to a staff presentation that went to council today (May 31), there were 1,847 homeless people in Vancouver when the count was conducted over a 24-hour period on March 10, 2016.

      Of those, 1,308 were sleeping in shelters and 539 were on the street.

      The total of 1,847 homeless people is up from 1,746 in 2015, 1,803 in 2014, and 1,600 in 2013.

      Included in the staff report is a per capita comparison to most other major cities in Canada. It shows that Vancouver has a significantly higher percentage of its population homeless.

      That number is 0.31 percent, compared to 0.23 percent for Edmonton,  0.20 percent for Kelowna, 0.19 percent for Calgary, 0.18 percent for Toronto, and 0.18 percent for Saskatoon. (Not all numbers are current, with some dating to 2014.)

      Mayor Gregor Robertson responded to the numbers in a media release.

      "The homeless count results are disappointing, considering the aggressive approach the City has taken over the last five years help people who are homeless and to address the root causes of homelessness," he said quoted there. "We've made significant investments and with our offer of 20 sites of city-owned land worth $250 million, the City continues to do more than our share. We're ready and willing to work with the BC and federal governments to build thousands of homes for people in Vancouver who are homeless and on low and modest incomes."

      Perhaps surprisingly, the count revealed that nearly a third of people sleeping in year-round shelters and just over a quarter of people sleeping in temporary shelters described themselves as employed.

      City of Vancouver

      Unsurprisingly, the 2016 survey showed that large portions of Vancouver’s homeless population continue to struggle with physical disabilities and mental-health issues.

      Of those surveyed, 53 percent said they have a problem with addiction or substance-use, 40 percent said they have a mental-health issue, 31 percent said they have a physical disability, and 42 percent said they have a medical condition or illness. Those results are not exclusive from one another, with 78 percent of Vancouver’s homeless people reporting they struggle with more than one health condition.

      City of Vancouver

      The 2016 count also showed a significantly disproportionate number of Vancouver’s homeless people identify as aboriginal.

      For those sleeping in temporary shelters, that number was 40 percent, for those sleeping in year-round shelters, it was 29 percent, and of people sleeping on the streets, 44 percent said they were aboriginal.

      Aboriginal people account for less than five percent of the population of British Columbia.

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