A volunteer speaks with a man in Whalley during the March 8 homeless count in Surrey.

Homeless count more than doubles in White Rock/Delta

The homeless count reported that there are 46 homeless people living in White Rock/Delta

Homelessness in White Rock/Delta has increased by 142 per cent over the past three years, according to findings from the 2017 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count.

The homeless count – which lumped White Rock and Delta numbers together – reported that there are 46 homeless people living in White Rock/Delta, a jump from 19 people noted in the 2014 homeless count.

Delta has an approximate population of 100,000, whereas White Rock has a population of approximately 20,000. However, Sources Food Bank manager Jaye Murray, who volunteered for the count, estimated that approximately half of the 46 recorded homeless people in the White Rock/Delta category are from White Rock.

Even that number, Murray says, is lower than the reality.

“I know it is,” she said.

A struggle with the count – which is conducted in shelters, by street walks and count hubs – is that it misses people who are couch surfing, which make up a portion of food bank clientele, Murray said.

She said although the count number might not be completely accurate, the trend of increasing homelessness is.

The 2014 count recorded four homeless people living in White Rock proper. The 2017 statistics do not have a breakdown specifically for White Rock.

A total of 602 homeless people were counted in Surrey, 399 sheltered and 203 unsheltered. (Statistics from South Surrey are part of the Surrey statistics.)

That’s a 49 per cent increase (199 more people) over the number counted in 2014.

Surrey’s homeless count had remained relatively stagnant over the last few counts. In 2005, the count identified 392 people as homeless, 402 in 2008, 400 in 2011 and 403 in 2014.

Members of the Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force have routinely taken issue with the 403 number, indicating the number should be 1,200.

Jonquil Hallgate, a longtime homeless advocate, helped run this year’s Surrey survey and said it’s widely considered an undercount. People must admit they are homeless in order to be included.

“The count doesn’t give us the number we believe is the reality,” she said on March 8.

For this year’s count, aboriginal people made up 18 per cent (137) of Surrey’s counted homeless. According to a 2011 Statistics Canada census, 2.4 per cent of Surrey residents identify as aboriginal.

Youth – defined as those under age 25 – made up 17 per cent (63).

Region-wide, 828 more homeless people were identified in the 2017 count compared to 2014, representing a 30 per cent increase in homelessness, and the highest number the count – in its 16th year – has seen.

Metro Vancouver is calling on all provincial parties to commit to implementing its recommended action plan developed by the Regional Homelessness Task Force, which identifies 12 key priorities including the opening of 1,000 additional units of transitional housing per year in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

“Along with the federal commitment in last month’s budget to invest more than $11 billion over 10 years for affordable housing, these count numbers should serve as a wakeup call to all provincial parties that homelessness needs to be a top priority,” said Nicole Read, co-chair of the Regional Homelessness Task Force.

“Throwing money at the problem is not going to make it go away – money needs to be invested more wisely, because the current system is failing miserably.”

-with files from Amy Reid

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