A person sleeps at vacant commercial property in downtown Victoria. Tom Fletcher/BLACK PRESS

A person sleeps at vacant commercial property in downtown Victoria. Tom Fletcher/BLACK PRESS

Point in Time count finds homelessness growing in Victoria

One-day survey finds 1,525 people on city’s streets, compared to 1,387 in 2016

The number of people experiencing homelessness across Greater Victoria is growing, according to the results of the 2018 Point in Time count.

Volunteers took to the streets for a 12-hour period in March as part of a joint effort between the Capital Regional District, the Community Social Planning Council and the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

A release from the CRD stated that 1,525 individuals were found to be experiencing homelessness, including 158 who were unsheltered. The last count, in February 2016, found 1,387 people who were experiencing sheltered or non-sheltered homelessness.

“Although the Point in Time Count process has limitations and can’t track trends over time, it provides a minimum estimate of the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night,” said Stefanie Hardman, research manager with the Planning Council.

In addition to the count, 906 people participated in a survey designed to gain more information about those in this situation.

RELATED: Point in Time Count to gauge homelessness in Greater Victoria

Nearly 20 per cent of the people surveyed were 55 or older while 17.4 per cent were under 25. The survey also found 41 per cent of people had their first experience of homelessness at 18 years of age or under.

The number of youth experiencing “hidden homelessness” were better captured in the 2018 count, which found that youth often couch-surf by staying with friends.

As many as 33 per cent of respondents identified as Indigenous, despite making up just 4.7 per cent of the region’s population.

Among the overall findings were that youth, Indigenous people and seniors have unique experiences of homelessness, which often starts at an early age. There were also found to be culture and age-related barriers to accessing housing, as well as services.

Although more people are receiving assistance through temporary shelters and transitional housing, many still need access to permanent homes, the survey found.

Almost 94 per cent of people surveyed said they are not homeless by choice and do want permanent housing. Economic issues were the largest cause of homelessness (loss of employment, inadequate income) as well as the need for appropriate resources for those experiencing addiction or struggling with mental health.

A large number of those surveyed were British Columbians – 83 per cent had lived in Victoria for more than one year.

To read the full results of the report visit https://bit.ly/2LBHPRc.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com