Homeless count is stable
The Tri-Cities have about the same number of homeless people as they did three years ago but more of them are looking for help at local shelters.
Those are the results of the preliminary homelessness count released this week, which found of the 55 homeless people counted in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody, 60% more are using the shelters than did in 2011.
"Obviously, the funds to take care of the homeless are working here," said consultant Polly Krier, who was hired to lead the local count.
Krier had 48 trained volunteers conduct the 24-hour survey on March 12. Equipped with cigarettes, candy and street survival guides, the teams fanned out in pairs to ask the homeless about their age, ethnic background, where they had slept the night before, whether they received government assistance and if they had any health challenges.
"It's a very personal look at their lives," Krier said, noting the surveys were anonymous and voluntary.
Volunteers visited areas that are frequented by the homeless, as identified by police, bylaw officers and outreach workers. The nice weather and the food bank open at Trinity United Church in Port Coquitlam that day made the count easier, Krier said.
In total, 55 people were screened — "a number that's not accurate because the homeless don't always want to be counted."
Still, Krier said she was pleased many wanted to reach out. "We found that the homeless are very interested in talking so we recorded as many of their stories as possible."
Sandy Burpee, chair of the Tri-Cities' Homelessness and Housing Task Group, which is part of the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on the Homelessness, which oversaw the count, said the Tri-Cities numbers aren't surprising.
"It's about what I anticipated. It's not a significant rise," he said, "although it's hard to grasp the true numbers in just one day."
Overall, the count showed a 5% rise — 120 more people — in the number of homeless in Metro Vancouver, with the overall number generally staying the same since 2008.
Of the 2,770 homeless people counted in the region, 1,813 were considered “sheltered homeless,” meaning they were found in shelters, safe houses for youth or transition houses for women. This category also includes individuals with “no fixed address” staying temporarily in hospital beds, jails or detox facilities.
The 2014 regional count identified 957 people considered “unsheltered homeless” — i.e., people living outside, couch surfing or using homelessness services on the day of the count.