British Columbia

681 youth living homeless in Metro Vancouver: report

The first-ever Metro Vancouver youth homeless count found 681 people between 13 and 24 years old living on the street, in shelters, or transition and recovery homes.

The youth homeless count includes people between 13 and 24 years old

Of the 681 homeless youth counted in the report, 349 were living in Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

A new report on the state of youth homelessness in Metro Vancouver is shedding some light on an well hidden issue.

Based on a count over nine days in early April, researchers found 681 people between 13 and 24 years old living without homes in the region.

"It's a much higher number than you would see in the traditional homeless counts, and starts to really tell us about youth who are experiencing homelessness," said Lorraine Copas, chair of the Homelessness Partnering Strategy Community Advisory Board.

"We didn't know what to expect," said Copas; "681 is an upsetting number, because it actually tells you a lot about children and youth who are struggling to get by in a housing system that's quite unforgiving."

Some key findings in the report, which was prepared for the Metro Vancouver Community Entity, include:

  • 349 homeless youth were living in Vancouver, 106 in Surrey.
  • 26 per cent of people were living rough on the street.
  • 74 per cent were couch-surfing, in shelters, detox, transition or recovery homes.
  • 42 per cent identified as Aboriginal or Indigenous.
  • 44 per cent were female, 52 per cent male, and four per cent identified as another gender (121 people didn't include gender identity information).
  • 26 per cent identified as LGBT.
  • 72 per cent reported having a mental illness.
  • 53 per cent reported issues with addiction.

Some homeless youth not counted

David Wells, chair of the Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee for the greater Vancouver area, said that though the Indigenous youth were overrepresented in the homeless count, they were likely still undercounted.

"We're not capturing [Indigenous] youth because of their experience with the system, whether it be the corrections system, whether it be the foster care system," said Wells, adding that past experience often leads to fear.

"That feeds into their resistance to connecting with any of the existing shelter or other supports that might move them toward a potential home situation," he said.

According to Copas, the total number of people counted was also lower than the actual number of youth without homes. She said the nine-day span in which the information was gathered gives a much more accurate picture than other one-day homeless counts, but many people still wouldn't have come in contact with the relevant facilities and services during the count.

Copas said one of the main takeaways from the report is that housing in the region is not affordable enough, and more needs to be done for people living below the poverty line.

"We really want a strong poverty reduction program, both in B.C. and federally," she said.


Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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