The number of homeless seniors is growing across Metro Vancouver.                                Paul Henderson/Black Press

The number of homeless seniors is growing across Metro Vancouver. Paul Henderson/Black Press

Growing number of seniors left out in the cold

Metro Vancouver’s senior homeless population jumps 240 per cent over six years

The number of seniors without permanent shelter in Langley, and the rest of Metro Vancouver, has grown at an alarming rate over the past three years.

According to the 2017 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count, seniors (ages 55-plus) categorized as ‘absolutely homeless’ were counted at 518 across the region, a 244.5 per cent jump from the 2008 count of 212.

(The average age of all homeless people across the region was 43).

Veteran outreach worker Fraser Holland from Starting Point in Langley offered another startling statistic.

“Looking at the stats from our office — keeping in mind not all folks coming in to see us are homeless, but all are at-risk of homelessness — from the period of September 2015 to 2016 to September 2016 to 2017, the number of folks coming to Starting Point or connecting with outreach in the community increased 195 per cent, to 1,312 individuals,” Holland said.

“The number of people we are seeing come through the office is crazy.”

Holland cited crisis, elder abuse, financial difficulties, the inability to live independently, coming out of the health or judicial system, mental health issues, “age-triggered changes,” and a breakdown of people’s support networks as “examples of why folks are coming to us.”

To help address the issue, BC Housing and Stepping Stone Community Services Society are proposing to convert the existing 50-room Quality Inn hotel at 6465 201 Street into 49 units of supportive housing for the homeless.

Holland supports using the former hotel to house the homeless.

He says the supportive housing that could be offered through the combination of in-house supports (staffed 24/7), the Intensive Case Management Team (to be housed on-site and operational 24/7), outreach workers and other community partners, “could provide the opportunity for stabilization for individuals followed by supported planning for their future housing aspirations.”

“The goal would be to bring people inside — to house them with the least amount of barriers as possible and to work with them to address areas that have contributed to challenges with housing previously,” Holland said.

“For the folks aged 55-plus who would be living in the building, there is great potential to connect them with services within the community that meet the specific needs that aging may require.”

‘Rough way to live’

Holland says an aging homeless population brings new challenges.

“It’s a rough way to live on the street, so 55 could feel a lot older,” Holland said. “We find we’re running into individuals who are 55 and older who may have been living in vulnerable situations for a long period of time, and now those situations are starting to fall apart where you are seeing older houses being torn down for condos.”

This creates a domino effect.

“We’re also seeing an increase in calls from the health system, where individuals are just no longer able to live on their own and are running into similar problems of squalor and collecting and hoarding, and we’re also seeing infestation, such as bedbugs and cockroaches, where the person doesn’t have the ability to actually deal with it,” Holland said.

“So we’re seeing more and more where people are losing housing or on the verge of losing housing because of that.”

Skyrocketing rental costs and shrinking vacancy rates are also significant factors.

The CMA’s updated Rental Market Report shows that, averaged out, the private apartment vacancy rate in Langley City and Township combined was 1.5 per cent (including 0.7 per cent for one bedroom apartments) in October 2017.

And in October 2017, the cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment when averaging the two Langleys was $975 per month. This increased to $1,340 for a two bedroom condo and $1,752 for a three-bedroom unit.

This makes it extremely difficult for an older person on a fixed pension or on welfare to afford to pay the rent, let alone buy food and pay for utilities.

“When I first started this kind of stuff (outreach work), the bachelor suites were $500, $600 (in Langley),” Holland said.

“Now, you’re looking at a bachelor suite and you’re probably in the $800, $900 range. And that’s your entire (income assistance) cheque. Income assistance will generally say, ‘If all of your money is going to rent, then how are you eating?’ They might not approve that housing because you have no money for anything else, or you’re already stressed to the point where you can’t pay hydro or pay for your phone because everything goes to rent.”

Clients in their 80s

Holland says the oldest person he has worked with who was ‘absolutely’ homeless was an 85-year-old woman in Aldergrove.

The oldest homeless man he has encountered was 82, in Langley.

“The lady was less vulnerable,” Holland said. “She had access to her vehicle, she had extra funds through pensions… she had more pieces at her disposal but still, at 85, she wouldn’t go near a shelter so finding places for her to go was more of a challenge.”

The 82-year-old man was “definitely more vulnerable,” Holland said.

“He wasn’t as capable, had some cognitive issues, would forget things,” Holland said.

“It’s never nice to work with people (who are homeless) who’ve seen so much and done so much. They’re the people who built the country; they’re the ones who contributed all these years and now they’re the ones who are sleeping in their cars or in a shelter bed.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Fraser Holland has been an outreach worker helping Langley’s homeless since 2006.                                Langley Times file photo

Fraser Holland has been an outreach worker helping Langley’s homeless since 2006. Langley Times file photo

Just Posted

Sources team members (left to right) Carrie Belanger, Abby Gemino, Tatiana Belyaeva, Yasmin de Joya-Pagal cheer during the 2020 Coldest Night of the Year event. This year’s event will be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sources photo)
White Rock’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser goes virtual

Annual walk raises funds for variety of Sources programs and services

An Amica White Rock resident receives the COVID-19 vaccine during a Jan. 15, 2021 clinic. (Tracy Holmes photo)
PHOTOS: South Surrey seniors grateful for ‘freedom’ of COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccination clinics at Fraser Health long-term and assisted-living sites were to wrap up Jan. 15

Fraser Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at a Surrey high-intensity rehabilitation unit, Laurel Place. On Dec. 22, 2020, Fraser Health said four patients and two staff members have tested positive for the virus. (Image: Google Street View)
Fraser Health says COVID-19 outbreak over at Laurel Place in Surrey

Health authority declared outbreak over Jan. 16

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)
Surrey city councillors complain not enough public input in committees

City has gone ‘exactly the opposite direction,’ Councillor Brenda Locke charges

(Photo by Kevin Hill)
40 cases linked to Surrey Memorial Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

Fraser Health says two death are associated with the outbreak

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

sdf
Another Mission student arrested for assault, in 2nd case of in-school violence this week

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Most Read