NORTHERN VANCOUVER ISLAND, B.C. – There are nearly 200 people counted as homeless in the Comox Valley and Campbell River combined.
This, according to data released Tuesday by the ministry in charge of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
This report summarized findings from 24 homeless counts conducted in communities across B.C.
The counts in the Comox Valley and Campbell River were among the 12 funded by the provincial government in March and April.
There were 117 people counted as experiencing homelessness in the valley, and 81 in Campbell River.
Across the 24 communities in B.C. ranging from Metro Vancouver (3,605) to Fort St. John (61), a total of 7,655 people identified as experiencing homelessness.
Respondents cited a lack of affordable housing as biggest reason why they were on the street.
The three main barriers to accessing housing identified by survey respondents were high rents (53 percent), low incomes (51 percent), and a lack of available, suitable housing (30 percent).
Shane Simpson, B.C.’s minister of social development and poverty reduction, said the count has given the government a snapshot of the levels of homelessness across the province.
“We know that these are often unique, local issues and they need to be solved in partnership with local resources including local councils or local elected and community organizations,” Simpson said.
In Courtenay, work is underway on a supportive housing development that will feature 46 modular units, with 24 hour supportive services.
Simpson said supportive housing is a “key piece” in addressing homelessness across the province.
“The modular housing with wraparound services… over 2,000 units have been built (across B.C.) and about 1,000 are open, the other 1,000 are in construction and will open in the next couple of months,” he said.
“They have been very well received in communities across the province to deal with people who are struggling with homelessness and particularly people who have complex issues, mental health, addiction issues which is a significant portion of people who are homeless.”
Simpson said prevention also plays a big role, to keep a roof over the heads of people on the brink of homelessness.
“I.E., they’re sleeping on their sister’s couch, they’re one cheque away from not being able to pay their rent and getting evicted and hitting the street… we need to have strategies that help people not fall into homelessness,” he said. “The best way to solve it (homelessness) is don’t let people fall into it or capture them very quickly when they do and get them back into housing.”
Whether it’s in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside or Campbell River, homelessness boils down to affordability and health issues such as addiction, mental health, and physical disabilities, Simpson noted.
“There are similarities no doubt about who tends to be vulnerable, and we need to address that,” he said.