The recent 2017 Homeless Count preliminary findings paint a troubling picture of homelessness across the Metro Vancouver region, including the high number of Indigenous/ Aboriginal peoples among the homeless population. “This is not a situation that can be ignored any further. More resources than what are currently being provided need to be directed to the Aboriginal community by all levels of government to address this unacceptable situation," says David Wells, Chair, Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee.The 2017 Count found a total of 746 survey respondents who identified as Indigenous/ Aboriginal, representing 34% of all participants. This is an increase from the 2014 Count which found 582 Indigenous/ Aboriginal individuals who were in emergency shelters or living on the streets, without a place to call home. The 2017 numbers are the highest share reported to date in a regional count and constitutes a very strong over-representation of Aboriginal people among the homeless compared to the total population in Metro Vancouver.We know that as a society, we can do better and that we must do better. Not only do we see a higher proportion of Indigenous/ Aboriginal people who are homeless but we know they face additional barriers in securing housing. This includes issues related to poverty and low income, as well as prejudice, racism, discrimination, and displacement from their home communities.“As a City of Reconciliation, greater efforts are needed by government to ensure that we experience the same level of homelessness suffering services as non-Aboriginal peoples. Housing and support services are critical to reduce our over represented population. Current resources and programming are not enough and existing homelessness programs create systemic barriers that contribute to our over represented numbers," says Kent Patenaude, President Lu’ma Native Housing Society.We also know that the enduring effects of colonization and the legacy of the residential school system continues to have an impact on daily experience of many Indigenous/ Aboriginal people and families, and has contributed to the high incidence of homelessness found in the Homeless Count data.The transition from on-reserve to city life can also leave many Indigenous/ Aboriginal persons “in-between” – living without a regular home, security, or community.Homelessness compounds a history of trauma and individuals are often unable to reach out for help. “While the numbers of Indigenous/ Aboriginal peoples indicated in the Count paint a picture they do not tell the entire story. There are many families and individuals that are at risk of or entrenched in homelessness that have not been counted. There are no accurate numbers for our hidden homeless. Services providers often tell of a story that says the numbers of Indigenous/ Aboriginal peoples that are homeless is likely three times that shown in the count." Says David Wells, Chair, Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee.More detailed information on the Homeless Count will be available later this month.
Background: In the 2014 Homeless Count there were 582 Indigenous/ Aboriginal people who were identified on the night of the Count. In 2017, this number increased to 746.In 2014 Indigenous/ Aboriginal people were over-represented among those who were homeless with 31% of all of those who were identified on the night of the Count. In 2017, Indigenous/ Aboriginal people accounted for 34% of all individuals identified on the night of the Count.In 2014, 41% of all Indigenous/ Aboriginal people who were identified on the night of the Count had been without a place to live for more than 1 year.There is a high incidence of homelessness among Indigenous/ Aboriginal youth (under 19). In 2014, 1 in 10 Indigenous/ Aboriginal people identified on the night of the Count were under the age of 19 while there were an additional 79 Indigenous/ Aboriginal youth between the ages of 19 and 24. The 2017 Homeless Count report will provide detail on Indigenous/ Aboriginal youth and other demographic breakdowns.