Fraser Valley – There are 895 homeless individuals in the Fraser Valley, according to final results from a survey released today to the board of directors of the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD). This number is a significant increase from 2017 when the count revealed 606 homeless individuals throughout the region living in shelters, transition houses, service centres and outside. Where previous surveys in 2011 and 2014 showed improvements in several communities, the rapid increase between 2014 and 2017 and continuing increases into 2020 is concerning.
The Homeless Count is conducted every three years and provides a moment-in-time snapshot of homelessness. Over 24 hours on March 3, 2020, over 100 agency staff and volunteers fanned out across the region and conducted one-on-one interviews with people living on the streets and in by-ways. A similar count was conducted in Metro Vancouver during the same period.
Given the COVID-19 emergency, efforts are being made to quickly provide information that will support local and senior government’s efforts to address homelessness during the global pandemic.
“This information is extremely valuable, especially as we are faced with the added pressures related to COVID-19,” said Board Chair Jason Lum. “Using this data, service providers and all levels of government will be better positioned to address the challenge of homelessness in our communities.”
“Continuing to work towards an increase in affordable and suitable housing remains an important matter in the FVRD to help lower-income individuals and families have a place to call home, to reduce the current level of homelessness and to prevent homelessness from increasing further,” said Dr. Ron van Wyk, Principal of Anron Consulting Inc. who oversaw the count.
Overall, there has been an increase in shelter space in recent years. Where 225 persons stayed in an official shelter on the night of the 2017 count, 381 persons were living sheltered in 2020, a 70% increase. However, the number of persons living outside or in a car, van or camper, also increased, from 201 persons in 2017 to 385 persons in 2020, a 91% increase.
“Many communities have made significant steps toward addressing homelessness and its associated challenges,” said Lum. “From an increased number of shelter spaces, expanded outreach services, and improvements to supportive programs, we know that we are making progress, but more needs to be done. The 2020 count results add urgency to the continued need to work with other levels of government and community partners to find more ways to reduce homelessness and its underlying causes in our communities.”
The 2020 Homeless Count would not be possible without the help of partners such as Boston Bar and North Bend Enhancement Society, Hope and Area Transition Society, Pacific Community Resources Society, Ruth and Naomi’s Mission, Cyrus Centre, Many Ways Home Housing Society, Mission Mental Health, Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Fraser Health, Raven’s Moon Resources Society, SARA for Women, Ann Davis Transition Society, Wilma’s Transition House, Positive Living Fraser Valley, Lookout Housing and Health Society, Agassiz-Harrison Community Services, Chilliwack Community Services, Mission Community Services, Archway Community Services, Abbotsford Food Bank, Salvation Army, The 5&2 Ministries, Union Gospel Mission (outreach), Abbotsford Police Department, RCMP Mission, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope, and local municipal governments.