News

Homeless numbers drop in Tri-Cities

The number of people living on the streets in the Tri-Cities has dropped dramatically in the last three years during a period when the rest of the Lower Mainland
The number of people living on the streets in the Tri-Cities has dropped dramatically in the last three years during a period when the rest of the Lower Mainland's homeless statistics have flatlined.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

The number of people living on the streets in the Tri-Cities has dropped dramatically in the last three years during a period when the rest of the Lower Mainland's homeless statistics have flatlined.

According to the 2011 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count report Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody saw the total number of homeless people decline from 94 in 2008 to 48  in 2011, a 49% drop. The one-day snap shot involves volunteers from across the region counting the homeless population in their community.

The recent data is no surprise to Tri-Cities Hope for Freedom Society director Rob Thiessen, whose outreach workers have been doing regular counts of the homeless population for the last few years.

"We are way down," he said. "We knew that going in. Our own count showed that we are way down from 2008 and [Metro's report] verified that."

Hope for Freedom has kept a monthly count and has many case files on the people who are currently unsheltered. Thiessen said their numbers show an even more dramatic drop, counting 215 people in 2008 compared to today's 48.

He believes the reason for the Tri-Cities' success stems from the fact the area has one consolidated group of volunteers and outreach workers dealing with the problem.

"You can get all these well-meaning organizations coming in there and they are stepping all over each other," he said. "You get duplication of help and it ends up working against you."

Hope for Freedom blends its homeless outreach with a drug and alcohol recovery programs, a combination Thiessen and the 2011 Homeless Count report said has been effective in getting people into permanent housing situations.

"We find someone out in the bush and very often the barrier is they are dealing with an addiction," he said. "We have a solution for them."

Across the Lower Mainland the number of people sleeping on the streets or in public parks has remained virtually unchanged, according to the 2011 count.

In 2008 Metro Vancouver total homeless population was 2,660, compared to the 2,650 counted in 2011, a 0.4% drop.

The count started in 2002 and is conducted every three years in order to assist policy makers and community agencies assess their needs and better understand the homeless population in Metro Vancouver.

According to the count's accompanying report, in almost all cases homelessness resulted in part from a lack of affordable housing, income security or support services. Periods of family or life transition were also a factor, the report said.

gmckenna@tricitynews.com

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