Homelessness in Numbers

31 05 2009

poverty olympics

Just how many homeless people are there living in Metro Vancouver? On March 11, 2008 there was a count of homeless people, attempting to estimate the scale of the homeless problem in Metro Vancouver.  A point in time count was conducted, looking at the number of homeless people in any given day. You can see the full report here, and I will summarize the key findings below:

  1. The general count found 2,660 homeless people, with 41% being sheltered and 59% on the street. Because it was a point in time methodology, this number is an extremely conservative estimate.
  2. The number of homeless people grew by 22% in the region. What is astounding, is that many suburban municipalities saw more than 100% growth. The Tri Cities homeless number grew the most, at 140% compared to the 2005 count!
  3. There are more homeless on the street in 2008 (59%) compared to in 2005 (52%). Of the homeless living on the street, 3 out of 4 live in inhumane places, including the street, abandoned buildings, and public spaces.
  4. There are still more homeless men, but the number of homeless women is rising at a faster rate
  5. Just like the rest of Metro Vancouver, the homeless population is aging, with an average age of 41 in 2008 compared to 38 in 2005.
  6. Aboriginal people are worst affected by homelessness. While they only represent 2% of the population (based on a census), they make up 32% of the homeless population.
  7. 84% of the homeless population suffers from complex health problems. This is a 47% increase since 2005. These health problems include: addiction (61%), mental illness (33%), and physical disability (31%).
  8. 43% of the homeless receive income assistance as their major source of income, which is a 30% increase compared to 2005.

These statistics have forced me to ask the following fundamental questions:

  • If there are 30% more homeless people with access to income assistance, why has the number of homeless people still increased?
  • With the Winter 2010 Olympics coming to Vancouver, has it raised the costs of living, especially housing, so much that the affordability of living in Vancouver is just too high for those near the poverty line?
  • Why is the number of homeless women rising faster than men?
  • Why do aboriginal people make up such a huge proportion of the homeless population, relative to their size? What problems do we need to fix there?
  • Why was the greatest increase in homeless numbers found in the Tri Cities?