Homeless people in Metro Vancouver are less transient than is often thought, according to the final report of the region’s 2014 homeless count.
Seventy-nine per cent of the 2,777 homeless people counted across the region on March 12 had been living for at least a year in the city where volunteers interviewed them. Just over half reported living in the same city for 10 years or more.
The minority of homeless who were relatively new in their community were often not new to the Lower Mainland.
At least half the homeless people who moved into Richmond, Burnaby, Delta, White Rock, Langley, Surrey and Maple Ridge within the last year had come from another Metro Vancouver community.
But most new arrivals to the Tri-Cities came from outside the region and most newly arrived homeless in Vancouver and the North Shore came from another part of Canada.
Nearly two-thirds of the region’s homeless are concentrated in Vancouver, while 15 per cent are in Surrey and the rest are spread out in other communities.
The report concluded the number of homeless in Metro has remained “fairly stable” – the total homeless counted has risen just four per cent since 2008, an increase that was slower than the nine per cent gain in population over the same six years.
The count found 742 people – 27 per cent of the total counted – had been homeless for more than a year.
It said more research is needed to determine if the roughly 300 newly homeless each month are becoming homeless for the first time or are having repeat episodes.
It’s also unclear, it said, whether the relatively stable numbers are the result of more success in housing the homeless or preventing them from becoming homeless in the first place.
The report made no reference to the significant provincial government investments in social housing – more than $600 million in Vancouver alone since 2006 – as well as increased rental assistance subsidies.
The one-day count is an imperfect snapshot of homelessness in the region conducted once every three years that organizers say undercounts the severity of the problem.
The number of street homeless has declined in most parts of the region except Vancouver since 2011.
Among the homeless were 371 seniors 55 and up.