[URBANTH-L]NEWS: Homeless Numbers Growing in Suburbs

Angela Jancius jancius3022 at comcast.net
Thu Sep 25 16:49:37 EDT 2008

Homeless numbers growing in suburbs

By Jeff Nagel - Langley Times

Published: September 20, 2008 12:00 PM

The number of homeless people has more than doubled in many parts of the 
Lower Mainland since 2005, according to the 2008 Homeless Count.

The 24-hour snapshot conducted by volunteers March 11 found 2,660 homeless 
people in Metro Vancouver - a 22 per cent increase from the previous count 
in 2005 and up 137 per cent from the first count in 2002.

While more than half the total homeless remain in the City of Vancouver 
(1,372), the numbers are up sharply in the outlying cities.
The Tri-Cities saw the biggest jump, up 140 per cent (91 homeless counted 
versus 38 in 2005).

The increase was 110 per cent in Burnaby (up from 40 to 84); 102 per cent in 
Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows (42 to 85); and 70 per cent in Richmond (33 to 56.)

Surrey had 402 homeless counted - up five per cent from 2005 - the second 
largest concentration of counted homeless in Metro Vancouver. Vancouver's 
numbers were up six per cent.

New Westminster (123, up 34 per cent) and North Vancouver (116, up 40 per 
cent) had the third and fourth largest homeless populations in the region.
Outside Vancouver city limits, homelessness climbed an average 35 per cent.
The final report, released Tuesday, gives the latest and most complete 
picture of the scope of the problem. It also uncovers disturbing trends 
about who is homeless.

Organizers pointed to the rising rate of homelessness among middle-aged 
people and seniors.

"We're seeing aging on the streets and aging in shelters," said Val 
MacDonald, executive director of the Seniors Services Society. "We're seeing 
increased numbers of seniors who have never been homeless in their lives but 
due to the absence of support services are now homeless."
The median age of homeless people counted was 41 in this count, up from 38 
in 2005.

Nine per cent of the homeless counted were age 55 or older and another 28 
per cent were between 45 and 54.

Those who are homeless have been that way for longer than found in previous 

Forty-eight per cent of those counted - 1,017 people - have been homeless 
longer than a year. That's up sharply from 20 per cent homeless more than a 
year in 2002 and 35 per cent in 2005.

MacDonald said that's a sign the problem is becoming "very entrenched on our 

She blames the lack of support and services that would allow more people to 
live independently.

Many of the homeless are chronically mentally ill and drug addicted, factors 
MacDonald said stems from the end of institutionalized care.
"They are people who will not go into housing," she said. "So they're 
chronically on the street."

Aboriginal people continue to be heavily represented among the homeless.

The working poor are also being increasingly forced into emergency shelters, 
the report found, noting 100 fully employed people were counted in shelters.
The province has bought numerous hotels and other properties for conversion 
into supportive or subsidized housing for the homeless.

But advocates say increased services and supports are also needed.

"All levels of government have to make a commitment to support these 
 people," MacDonald said.

People surveyed were asked where they consider to be their home.

The results show cities like Vancouver, Surrey, and to a lesser extent New 
Westminster and Langley are magnets for homeless people from other places.
Eight per cent of those surveyed said home for them was elsewhere in B.C., 
and another 18 per cent said elsewhere in Canada was home.

The top reasons given for being homeless included lack of income (25 per 
cent), cost of housing (19 per cent), addictions (17 per cent), and abuse, 
family breakdown or conflict (10 per cent).

Of those on the street the night of the count, 32 per cent said they didn't 
stay in a shelter because they dislike them and 16 per cent said they were 
turned away because the shelter was full. 

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list