COMOX VALLEY, B.C. – The number of  seniors without shelter in the Comox Valley has jumped significantly over the past two years, according to a report released Wednesday by the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness.

Seniors (people aged 55-plus) made up for 29 per cent of the 117 respondents who counted themselves as having experienced homelessness.

The findings were determined from a 24-hour count conducted throughout the Comox Valley on March 7.

The point-in-time count preliminary report also found that:

  • 117 people experienced homelessness compared to 101 in 2016, an increase of 13 per cent;
  • 68 individuals experienced absolute homelessness compared to 60 in 2016, marking a 12 per cent increase;
  • 49 respondents had experienced hidden homelessness (sheltered) compared to 41 in 2016, signifying a 16 per cent jump in two years;
  • 52 per cent of the respondents identified as male compared to 49 per cent in 2016;
  • 32 per cent identified as indigenous compared to 43 per cent in 2016; and
  • 65 per cent of respondents were between the ages of 25 and 54, down a percentage point from 2016.

“It is important to note that these numbers are just a snapshot of homelessness in our community as we survey those who identify as being homeless within a 24 hour period,” noted Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness coordinator Andrea Cupelli. “We know there are many more community members out there who experience homelessness.”

Cupelli said the coalition held ‘magnet’ events where people could get free food, services such as haircuts, footcare, and even a veteranarian for those with pets in Courtenay, Cumberland, Denman and Hornby Island.

“We had outreach teams surveying people on the streets in the early morning and late evening throughout known areas in Courtenay, Comox and even surrounding communities in the CVRD such as Union Bay,” Cupelli explained.

“We also had surveys being conducted onsite at social service agencies like the CV Transition Society, AIDS Vancouver Island, Amethyst House, Salvation Army, Mental Health and Substance Use, Care-a-Van etc. and shelters (Salvation Army Pidcock House and Transition Society’s LILLI House) within that 24 hour period.”

The City of Courtenay  is leasing city-owned land at 988 8th Street to BC Housing and the provincial government to accommodate 46 units of supportive housing, with 24/7 support for people experiencing mental health and substance abuse issues, or having challenges finding shelter for long periods of time.