Count finds 49 per cent more homeless people in Surrey

A total of 602 homeless people were counted in Surrey, up from 403 in 2014

Two volunteers interview a man during this year's homeless count in Surrey. The results are in and they reveal a 49 per cent increase in the number of people identified as homeless in Surrey.

Two volunteers interview a man during this year's homeless count in Surrey. The results are in and they reveal a 49 per cent increase in the number of people identified as homeless in Surrey.

SURREY — Preliminary numbers from the regional homeless count are in, and Surrey’s numbers are way up.

A total of 602 homeless people were counted in Surrey last month, including 399 sheltered and 203 unsheltered.

That’s a 49 per cent increase (199 more people) than were counted in 2014, the last time the count occurred.

The Metro Vancouver Homeless Count, done every three years, is run by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. It aims to provide a snapshot of the region’s homeless population, obtain a demographic profile of this population and identify trends compared to previous counts.

See more: HOMELESS COUNT: The toll of Surrey streets

In Surrey, the number of homeless counted stayed relatively stagnant over the last few counts. In 2005 the count identified 392 people as homeless, 402 in 2008, 400 in 2011 and 403 in 2014.

Eighteen per cent (137) of all the surveyed Aboriginal people across the region were found in Surrey.

Youth – defined as those under 25 years of age – made up 20 per cent of all homeless across the region. Seventeen per cent of all youth were found in Surrey, only surpassed by Vancouver.

Region-wide, 828 more homeless people were identified in the 2017 count compared to 2014, representing a 30 per cent increase in homelessness, and the highest number the count has ever seen.

Jonquil Hallgate, a longtime homeless advocate, helped run this year’s Surrey survey and said it’s widely considered an undercount. People must admit they are homeless in order to be included.

“The count doesn’t give us the number we believe is the reality,” she said on March 8.

See more: VIDEO: Over 3,600 people homeless in Metro Vancouver

Metro Vancouver is calling on all provincial parties to commit to implement its recommended action plan developed by the Regional Homelessness Task Force, which identifies twelve key priorities including the opening of 1,000 additional units of transitional housing per year in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

“Along with the federal commitment in last month’s budget to invest more than $11 billion over 10 years for affordable housing, these count numbers should serve as a wakeup call to all provincial parties that homelessness needs to be a top priority,” Nicole Read, Co-Chair of the Regional Homelessness Task Force. “Throwing money at the problem is not going to make it go away money needs to be invested more wisely, because the current system is failing miserably. It is time for immediate, evidence-based actions from the Province, in close collaboration with the Federal government, municipalities,community service providers and health authorities.”

Click here to see the report.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com