Census won’t count homeless sleeping outside

Those sleeping in shelters and with family and friends to be counted, but finding those outside too difficult.

Homeless men and women are largely abiding by the new parks bylaw

The 2016 census might endeavour to count every Canadian, but it may miss a large segment of Abbotsford’s homeless population.

The census is “dwelling-based,” according to Kwong Wong, assistant director of the 2016 census for B.C. and Yukon. Homeless people staying in shelters will be counted, and the census also will hope to capture those who stayed in the home of friends or family on the night of May 9. But counting people sleeping outside isn’t possible, Wong said.

The last homeless count found 151 people without regular shelter, a number that Mennonite Central Committee’s Ron Van Wyk, who co-ordinates the count, says is an “undercount.” With Abbotsford having a combined 65 spaces at the usually full Salvation Army and Riverside Road shelters, the census could miss counting dozens of homeless men and women.

The federal government attempted to gather data on the make-up of the country’s homeless population through counts in 30 Canadian communities earlier this year, although Abbotsford did not participate.

The next homeless count in Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley is set to take place in 2017.