Pandora Ave homeless camp/Photo submitted by Tim Ford

A biennial count of homeless individuals in the Capital Regional District (CRD) has found that over 1,500 people were without permanent housing in Greater Victoria as of March 2020.

The 2020 Greater Victoria Point-in-Time (PiT) Count found that 1,523 individuals were found to be experiencing homelessness in the capital region on the evening of March 11, 2020.

The count was conducted in partnership between the CRD, the Community Social Planning Council (CSPC) and the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

This year’s result is relatively unchanged from the previous count on March 15, 2018, which found 1,525 people were homeless in Greater Victoria.

The CRD says that the two counts do not necessarily reflect a trend due to changes in collection methodology.

They also say that the PiT count should be treated as an under-estimate due to some individuals choosing to not participate in the survey and other people experiencing “hidden” homelessness.

“The survey results are indicative of the vulnerability to homelessness people experience because of structural factors such as poverty, stigma and discrimination,” said Kelly Roth, Executive Director, Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

Roth also said a lack of resources aimed at addressing complex needs and a lack of housing choices with proper supports are contributing factors to homelessness and vulnerability.

The full report highlights that homelessness disproportionately impacts Indigenous people, with 35 per cent of those counted in the survey identifying as Indigenous despite accounting for just five per cent of the general population in Greater Victoria.

LGBTQ2S+ youth were also disproportionately represented among the city’s homeless, with 30 per cent of youths identifying as such.

63 per cent of those surveyed were male, and 70 per cent were between the ages of 25-55.

17 per cent also said they are currently employed, including full-time, part-time, and casual work.

The CRD says that the PiT Count will be used to improve service delivery and real-time reporting of homelessness levels.

“The Count results are instrumental in guiding the housing, social supports and health supports community in its planning processes to ensure that resources are invested in areas of greatest need,” said Christine Culham, Senior Manager, Regional Housing, Capital Regional District.

Pandemic-induced shelter closures at facilities such as Our Place Society displaced large numbers of people into limited service areas like Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue.

The CRD says that 134 people have found housing in hotels purchased by BC Housing over the course of the COVID-19 and another 347 are currently being housed in other hotel rentals in Victoria.

These numbers are included in the full count.