The 2017 homeless count was the topic of discussion at the latest Peninsula Homeless to Housing (PH2H) task force monthly meeting last Friday.
The last Metro Vancouver Homeless Count found 403 homeless people in Surrey, which encompasses White Rock.
PH2H members often estimate that the 403 number is about a third of the actual number of homeless people living in Surrey.
The 2017 count will take place March 8.
“There’s been a whole concern with an undercount in Surrey. Since 2008, the number of people who have been interviewed during the homeless count hasn’t gone up. We all know that it’s much worse than it was eight years ago,” said PH2H co-ordinator, Peter Greenwell at the meeting.
Sources Newton Resource Centre advocacy manager, Soraya VanBuskirk, said organizers are in the mapping stage of the count.
New to the effort will be an extended count, which only relates to the Newton area.
“The last count was after Julie Paskall was murdered in Newton (in December 2013). I think there was a really high police presence in Newton on the day of the count. So we actually counted zero homeless people in Newton in the last count,” VanBuskirk said.
VanBuskirk said the homeless count is important because it’s related to the allocation of federal dollars.
“That’s really where the significant longterm impact is from the count. That’s why I think people are having an issue with the one-day count. We know that it’s not an accurate reflection of what’s actually going on,” she added.
VanBuskirk said the count also overestimates long-term homeless people and underestimates short-term homeless people.
A rural component has been added to the 2017 count. It will focus on people living in encampments in outlying areas.
PH2H chairman Neil Fernyhough said one of his concerns with the count is that it tends to be weather-dependent.
“If it’s a nice day, the numbers are up. If it’s a crappy, windy day, the numbers are down. It’s just harder to find people to interview.”
PH2H will know more information of the upcoming count by mid-December, after regional organizers meet to discuss the logistical details.
Task force member Pat Petrala, who said details of the rural count are still being finalized, noted White Rock’s First United Church is in need of volunteers, particularly for morning shifts, at the extreme weather shelter.
Anyone interested in volunteering may call the church at 604-531-4850.