In a news release issued on Tuesday, the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction said that while the province has taken important first steps, more must be done to prevent and address homelessness.

For the first time ever, the ministry conducted a provincewide homeless-count report, and found that 7,655 people across 24 different BC communities have experienced homelessness within the past 2 years.

The 24 communities include Victoria, where the report says approximately 931 people are homeless. The data collected accounts for over 85% of the entire BC population.

According to the report, these individuals run a broad range of demographics, including families, youth, and seniors. However, the ministry says that indigenous peoples and former children in care are significantly overrepresented.

“This report is another reminder of why we have made it a priority to rebuild the social programs people rely on,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction in a statement.

“Many people living on the street are struggling with challenges that are intensified through their experience of being homeless. You can’t live on the street and not be affected both mentally and physically by the constant struggle.”

By the Numbers

According to the report, of the 7,655 people experiencing homelessness, 4,787 (63%) reported they were sheltered and 2,868 (37%) said they were unsheltered.

When asked about barriers to housing, 1,813 individuals said that rent was too high, while 1,743 said their income was too low, and another 1,017 reported there was no available or suitable housing.

Sources of income for these individuals ranged, with 735 people saying that their income came from employment, while 1,212 received a disability benefit. Meanwhile, another 1,682 received income or disability assistance and lastly 439 people reported senior’s benefits.

When asked about where these people lived, exactly half (50%) said that they have lived in their community their whole lives, or for at least 10 years. Nearly a third (29%) said they lived in the same community between 1 to 10 years, while the remaining 21% said they lived in the same community less than one year.

Current steps

The provincial government has been unrolling the first ever poverty reduction strategy, which includes more than 2,000 modular homes across 22 communities, and 2,500 supportive housing units.

Roughly 160 of these modular homes have just opened in Nanaimo.

While the province has invested an unprecedented amount into combatting homelessness in BC, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness is also at one of its highest points.

“That nearly 8,000 British Columbians on a typical night have no place to call home is a problem that has persisted for far too long,” said Jill Atkey, CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, in the same release.

“Good baseline data will allow us to track the impacts of the historic provincial investments being made into housing and poverty reduction, and our collective efforts in solving a crisis that reaches every corner of British Columbia.”