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1/3 of Metro Vancouver’s unhoused are Indigenous: Report

64% of Indigenous respondents reported having lived or generational experience with residential school

Indigenous people continue to be severely overrepresented among Metro Vancouver’s unhoused – often experiencing homelessness younger, for longer and facing more health concerns.

The 2023 Point-in-Time Homeless Count for Greater Vancouver’s data was released Thursday (Oct. 5). According to organizers, about half of the 4,821 people experiencing homelessness and captured in the count in March volunteered to fill out the entire questionaire.

While Indigenous people make up roughly two per cent of B.C.’s population, 33% of those who fully answered the survey said they were Indigenous.

That statistic is consistent with the previous homeless count in 2020. Lu’ma Native Housing Society and other organizers and experts have noted these stats are likely minimum benchmarks in reflection to the true number of British Columbians struggling through homelessness.

The 2023 count identified 4,821 people as experiencing homelessness, which was up 32 per cent from 2020.

READ MORE: Homelessness up 32% in Metro Vancouver compared to 2020

Of the people who identified as Indigenous, 64 per cent reported having lived or generational experience with residential schools.

“This is again speaks to the legacy of colonialism through the residential schools, Sixties Scoop … (it) just all speaks to the impact that that’s had on those folks,” said David Wells, the chair of the Indigenous Homelessness Steering Committee and the Indigenous Community Advisory Board for Reaching Home.

Fifty-eight per cent of the Indigenous homeless population is unsheltered, compared to 25 per cent of the non-Indigenous homeless population. In 2020, 51 per cent of the Indigenous population was unsheltered.

For this year’s count, 77 per cent of Indigenous respondents had been homeless for more than a year, 60 per cent experienced homelessness for the first time before the age of 25 and five per cent became homeless as Elders. All of those benchmarks are up from the 2020 count, which was 55 per cent, 56 per cent and three per cent, respectively.

The report noted that Indigenous peoples are homeless longer, homeless younger and have more health concerns than non-Indigenous respondents and the trends are getting worse.

Counts are held every three years, and the last count was in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take centre stage. That year, 3,634 people were identified as experiencing homelessness.

The count this year included the communities in the North Shore, Vancouver, Richmond, Delta, Burnaby, Surrey, New Westminster, the Langleys, the Tri-Cities, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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