At least 1,665 people in Greater Victoria were experiencing homelessness on the night of March 7, according to results released by the Point-in-Time (PiT) survey.
The survey, conducted every two years, intends to provide a community-based “snapshot” of individuals experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness at a single point in time.
The Capital Regional District released the results on Aug. 3 in partnership with the Alliance to End Homelessness in the Capital Region and both said results highlight the magnitude of the homelessness crisis in the district.
“The survey allows communities to better understand who is experiencing homelessness, why they are experiencing homelessness and how, as a community, we can better serve these individuals and families,” read the report.
This year’s count was higher than the 1,523 people identified to be experiencing homeless in March 2020, though the report emphasized the two totals are only approximations and should not be cited to suggest trends in the region.
Of the 1,665 respondents, 242 were unsheltered, 282 were in emergency shelters, 601 were in transitional housing, 410 were in public systems such as corrections and hospitals and 85 were couch surfing. The remaining 45 people were in an unknown sleeping location.
But according to the report, results are considered to be an underestimate of the number of people experiencing homelessness on a given night, due to the number of participating shelters and challenges reaching individuals in “hidden homelessness,” who might be couch surfing or staying with friends or family.
Indigenous people continue to be overrepresented in the region’s homeless population, according to the report with 32.9 per cent of survey respondents, despite only making up five per cent of Greater Victoria’s total population.
Neatly 25 per cent of survey respondents were 55 or older, marking a five per cent increase in seniors experiencing homelessness from the 2020 survey. Among respondents in this age demographic, 91.6 per cent reported spending the night of March 7 alone.
Substance abuse issues and mental health challenges continue to be trends in the homeless population, with 61.2 per cent of respondents identifying as having a mental health issue and 67.5 per cent identifying as having a substance abuse issue. But only 17 per cent identified substance use as a cause for homelessness.
The report cited high rent, low income and lack of available options are the top three obstacles to finding housing in Greater Victoria.
As of October 2022, the vacancy rate for bachelor apartments in the region was 1.1 per cent, with an average monthly cost of $1,138, according to data pulled from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Approximately 20 per cent of Greater Victorians fall within the “core housing need,” according to Statistics Canada, and spend more than 30 per cent of their income, before taxes, on housing.
The CRD and the Alliance to End Homelessness said the survey results will be an important resource for local governments and the community to better understand and manage the homelessness crisis in the region.
“The results of the 2023 PiT demonstrate that, in spite of best efforts, far too many continue to experience homelessness in our region. The suffering and the long-term effects of homelessness cannot be underestimated,” said Sylvia Ceacero, executive director of the Alliance to End Homelessness in the Capital Region, in a news release.
“As a community, we have to do better: better at addressing the pathways into homelessness; better at supporting our unhoused neighbours; better at providing the conditions that will see everyone housed, healthy and thriving,” she continued.