Some commonly asked questions about homelessness in the Tri-Cities:
Why are people homeless?
How many homeless persons are there in the Tri-Cities?
Why should we end homelessness?
What do homeless persons need?
Are there any emergency shelter spaces in the Tri-Cities for homeless persons?
What is being done to meet the needs of homeless persons in the Tri-Cities?
Why are people homeless?
Everyone who is homeless has their own story. Each of the stories is usually linked to one or more of the following:
• They don’t have enough income
• They can’t find affordable housing
• They don’t have access to health or social support services.
Not having enough income means that a person does not have enough money to pay for the basic necessities of life. The 2005 Greater Vancouver homeless count found that less than half the people surveyed had a predictable source of income. Welfare payments and other government income assistance help some people pay for housing costs, but the maximum housing allowance available to a single person on welfare is $375/month.
Affordable housing means housing that costs a reasonable amount compared to a person’s income. In the Tri-Cities, the average rent for a one bedroom purpose-built apartment is just under $800 per month. This amounts to close to half of what a person working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage of $10.25/hr earns before any taxes or deductions. A good measure of affordability is housing that costs no more than 30% of the pre-tax income of someone earning a modest income.
Support services are the health and social services that some people need in order to find and keep housing. Support services can include drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services, counselling, and assistance with daily living. Sometimes these support services are delivered as part of a housing service (e.g., a nurse on site) and sometimes they are in the community (e.g., community mental health services).
(courtesy of www.stophomelessness.ca)
It is difficult to get an exact number of people who are homeless in the Tri-Cities at any given time, as the number fluctuates. As some persons are finding alternatives to life on the street, others are becoming homeless. But, it is clear that the number of homeless persons in the Tri-Cities has increased since 2014.
Fifty five homeless persons were enumerated during the formal 24 hour regional homeless count conducted in March 2014. This number was a slight increase from the 48 homeless persons enumerated during the March 2011 regional count, which is conducted every 3 years. However, it is recognized that this is an undercount of the actual numbers. First, it is difficult to enumerate homeless persons who are “couch-surfing” with a friend or relative, and second, some homeless persons avoid being counted.
The outreach work performed by the Hope For Freedom Society has provided a more accurate estimate of the number of homeless in the Tri-Cities as it is based on day-to-day contact with homeless persons. In the fall of 2014, outreach workers estimated there were 64 homeless persons in the Tri-Cities, by the late fall of 2015 this number had increased to over 100 persons.
For information on the demographics of the homeless population in the Tri-Cities, refer to Tri-Cities Outreach & Advocacy Report 1 (April 2006 – September 2006) and Outreach & Advocacy Report 2 (October 2006 – March 2007).
There are many reasons for ending homelessness and these relate both to the homeless individuals and to the larger community. Three simple reasons are: to eliminate the human suffering and waste of potential lives; to reduce the drain on public and private supports; and to avoid the negative effects on communities, businesses and civil society. Homelessness is clearly a tragic situation for the individual. This is obvious when we look into the faces of the people who are street homeless in Vancouver. There is a high human cost when people are not able to fully participate in society and end up isolated from their community.
An increasing body of information also indicates that our current approach to homelessness has led to an inefficient use of public resources. It costs more to leave people homeless than to provide them with permanent housing and support services. A 2001 study by the Province indicated that the public costs for providing services and shelter for one homeless person are up to $40,000 annually compared with up to $28,000 for someone who has housing.
Homelessness also negatively affects neighbourhoods and businesses. The quality of life is reduced for citizens of Vancouver, particularly in the Downtown, but also in our neighbourhood centres. Having people living on our streets and in our parks is bad for business, especially tourism, which is a major part of Vancouver’s employment and economic base.
It is important to deal with homelessness with urgency, particularly with young people. The longer people are street homeless, the more homelessness becomes an entrenched way of life, and people lose the ability to be re-integrated into society. Maintaining family connections, community contacts, or job readiness becomes increasingly difficult as the skills for these activities get replaced with survival street skills. No one wants to see the homeless situation worsen by having more people living on the streets.
Primarily, homeless persons need adequate, safe and dependable shelter and the support services to help them address their personal challenges. In the interim, they need the basic resources and supplies we take for granted that will make life a bit more comfortable and restore a bit of dignity:
- clean water
- medical care
- dental care
- personal hygiene products
- resource information
- empathy and encouragement
To learn what you can do to help, see How You Can Help
Emergency shelter and housing for persons homeless in the Tri-Cities is available at the Coquitlam shelter & transitional housing facility at 3030 Gordon Ave., Coquitlam. The facility, operated by RainCity Housing, includes 30 emergency shelter beds, 30 transitional housing suites and 30 extreme weather beds in a dormitory setting during periods of severe winter weather. For more information, see shelter
The Hope For Freedom Society operates a program of outreach to persons homeless or at risk of homelessness in the Tri-Cities. Two outreach workers seek out homeless persons where they live and connect them with available services.
There are also food banks, soup kitchens, clothing programs, and hot meals available across the Tri Cities.