British Columbia

B.C. Housing no longer recording shelter turn-away numbers

The NDP housing critic is questioning why B.C. has stopped collecting data on the number of homeless people who are turned away by shelters.

'Without this data we don't know whether one person was turned away or 100,' says David Eby

B.C. Housing has stopped recording the number of people turned away at homeless shelters, according the NDP housing critic David Eby.

The NDP housing critic is questioning why B.C. has stopped collecting data on the number of homeless people who are turned away by shelters.

NDP housing critic David Eby says documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request reveal that B.C. Housing stopped collecting the data in November 2014.

The so-called turn-away data gives some idea on how many times people try to access shelter in B.C. and the reasons why they were turned away.

"The data is important because it gives some indication of the homeless population and the capacity of emergency shelters to meet the demand," said Eby.

"Without this data we don't know [...] if one person was turned away or 100 turned away."

In March 2014, 5,825 people were turned away across all of the provinces shelters. In the same month, Vancouver alone turned away 384 people. 

But in a letter to the NDP, B.C. Housing said that the data does not accurately illustrate shelter occupancy within a community because of the following reasons: 

  • Shelter turn-away statistics do not reflect unique individuals, but rather the number of incidents. 
  • A turn-away does not necessarily mean a shelter is full. Turn-away reasons may include a person not meeting the criteria for the shelter.
  • An individual turned away at one shelter may find shelter at another location on the same date.
  • Some shelters may not have reported all their turn-away incidents during the time of interest and some shelters did not report any of their turn-away incidents during that time.

Need better data

For Eby that's not enough, he wants better data collected because he believes it is useful for allocating shelter resources.

"It's concerning anytime that you have a turn-away at a shelter," he said.

"Imagine dragging your belongings across town and begin greeted at the shelter with an answer that there is no space," he said, "People usually will give up and sleep on the street."

Eby would like to see anyone who shows up at a shelter to be accommodated or transported to another shelter that has space.

He's also concerned the province didn't make it known that they were going to stop collecting what he calls "critically important data". 

B.C. Housing is still going to collect data on how many full beds a night each shelter has, but not on how many people were turned away. 

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled B.C. Housing no longer recording shelter turn-away numbers with the CBC's Stephen Quinn on The Early Edition.


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