2017 Vancouver Homeless Count

The 2017 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count counted the number of homeless people over a 24-hour period on March 8, 2017.

The count highlighted the increasing number of seniors that are experiencing homelessness

A total of 380 seniors between 55 and 65 years and another 176 seniors above the age of 65 years responded to the survey on March 8, for a total of 556 seniors. Seniors aged 55 and over represented 23% of the homeless population compared to 18% in 2014. This continues the upward trend of seniors in relation to the total homeless population that has been evident since the 2008 Count.

The Count

  • 3,605 people were homeless, an increase of 30% since 2014
  • 70% Male, 27% Female, 1% Other
  • 16% under 25, 21% over 54
  • 34% indigenous/aboriginal
  • 51% homeless for over 1 year
  • 50% in the same community over 10 years
  • Reasons (people selected more than 1):
    • 50% rent too high
    • 49% income too low
    • 30% no suitable housing
  • Top sources of income
    • 42 % basic income assistance
    • 28% disability benefit
    • 21% had a full-time or part-time job
  • Health & Service Use: 83% reported at least one of these health conditions; 52% reported two or more
    • 53 % addiction
    • 44% medical condition
    • 38% mental illness
    • 33% physical disability
  • Most frequently used services in past year
    • 1st, Emergency Room
    • 2nd, Mean Program
    • 3rd, Ambulance

Growing Number of People Experiencing Homelessness

A total of 3,605 people in the Metro Vancouver region were identified as homeless on March 8, 2017. Of those, 1,032 were unsheltered and 2,573 sheltered. Among the sheltered, 256 individuals stayed in Extreme Weather Response (EWR) shelters. With shelters across the region operating at capacity, those staying in EWR shelters would likely have been counted on the street were the EWRs not operating.

The majority of the sheltered homeless population included 2,050 people staying overnight in homeless shelters, transition houses and safe houses while another 267 people with no fixed address stayed in hospitals, jails and detox facilities. Not counting EWR clients, the unsheltered homeless population included 1,032 people living outside and/or staying temporarily with others (couch surfing) and using homelessness services on the day of the Count.

The largest homeless population was found in Vancouver, with 2,138 people, and Surrey with 602 people. Region-wide, 828 more people were identified as homeless in 2017 compared to 2014, representing a 30% increase in homelessness and the highest number since 2002 when the first Metro wide count occurred. Homelessness increased in all communities, except on the North Shore, between 19% (Burnaby) and 142% (Delta/White Rock). The highest absolute increases occurred in Vancouver (335), Surrey (199) and Langley (114).

Indigenous People Over-Represented

The total number of Indigenous/Aboriginal people reported is a count of those who participated in the survey and self-identified as Indigenous/Aboriginal. A total of 746 survey respondents identified as Indigenous, representing 34% of all respondents to the survey. Indigenous people continue to represent about one-third of the homeless population in the region. This is the highest proportion reported to date in a regional Count and constitutes a strong over-representation compared to the total population where 2% identify as Aboriginal as per the 2011 Census.

More Seniors and Fewer Youth Found to be Experiencing Homelessness

A total of 201 children under 19 years of age and 185 youth between 19 and 24 years were found homeless on March 8, for a total of 386 children. Young people under 25 years represented 16% of the homeless population in 2017 compared to 20% in 2014. Young people are the only age group where the Count results showed a decrease.

A total of 380 seniors between 55 and 65 years and another 176 seniors above the age of 65 years responded to the survey on March 8, for a total of 556 seniors. Seniors aged 55 and over represented 23% of the homeless population compared to 18% in 2014. This continues the upward trend of seniors in relation to the total homeless population that has been evident since the 2008 Count.

Men Continue to Be Majority of People Counted

Among those who responded to the survey, women accounted for 27% of the total homeless population (628 individuals) while men represented 72% (1,688 individuals). Other gender identities, reported for the first time in a regional Homeless Count, represented 1% of the total homeless population (25 individuals

Home Community of People Experiencing Homelessness

Questions related to movement between communities aim to determine whether people move from one area to another and how long they have been in an area. The majority of people experiencing homelessness were long-time residents of their community. Fifty percent (50%) of respondents reported they had lived in the city where they were interviewed for 10 or more years (including the 16% of respondents who said “they had always lived here”).

For the 22% (496 individuals) who had moved in the last year, 470 individuals specified a previous location: 30% had moved from within the Metro Vancouver region, 27% had moved from elsewhere in B.C. and 30% had come from other parts of Canada. The latter is particularly true for respondents in the City of Vancouver and less so for respondents in other communities across Metro Vancouver who were predominantly from another community in the Metro region (52%).

Lack of Income, Housing Cost and Availability Main Barriers to Accessing Housing

The three most cited barriers to finding housing were: the high cost of rent (50%), a lack of income (49%) and the lack of availability of housing that suits their needs (30%).

Patterns of Service Use

Health services were among the most commonly accessed services: fifty percent (50%) of the respondents had used an emergency room in the past year; 40% had used the hospital for non-emergencies; 39% had used an ambulance; and, 39% had used a health clinic. In all cases, the sheltered population used these health services more than the unsheltered. Meal programs were another highly accessed service, used by 47% of the respondents, as well as drop-in services, which were used by 37% of respondents. In both cases, people in the unsheltered population were more likely to use these services.

Health of People Experiencing Homelessness

A majority of the respondents (82%) have at least one health condition, including addiction, mental illness, physical disability or a medical condition/illness. More than half of the respondents (52%) have two or more health conditions. The incidence of reported health conditions has increased for all types of health conditions since 2014 by 3 percent or 4 percent depending on the health condition. More than half (53%) of the total population reported an addiction, 44% reported a medical condition, 38% reported living with mental illness and 33% reported a physical disability.

Source of Income

There is a wide range of income sources among the respondents. Most respondents received income from Income Assistance (42%), followed by a disability benefit (28%). Of the respondents, 15% earned an income from binning/bottle collecting and 22% were employed part- or full-time.

Full Report

Author: BC Non-Profit Housing Association & M.Thomson Consulting
Year published: 2017
Title: “2017 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver”
City: Burnaby
Publisher: Metro Vancouver Homelessness Partnering Strategy Community Entity
Website: http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/homelessness/resources/Pages/default.aspx