The number of Campbell Riverites who are experiencing homelessness is up over 40 per cent since 2018, according to new information from the province.
The province regularly holds Point in Time counts, which provide a snapshot of what homelessness looks like in a community on a given day. The last time a count like this happened in Campbell River was 2018, when 81 people were identified as experiencing homelessness.
That number has increased to 116 in the April 9 count, a 43 per cent increase.
“It tells us that homelessness is on the rise in the community over the last three years,” said Stefanie Hendrickson, coordinator for the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness. “For any of the people working in this field these numbers won’t come as a surprise that there’s an increase.”
Point in Time counts are considered snapshots, and not absolute counts of all of the people experiencing homelessness in a community. Some difficulties can be in counting people who fall into the “hidden homelessness” category, which are people who are living in their vehicles, couch surfing or who don’t fit into a neat category.
“Hidden homelessness is extremely difficult to quantify. Some people who we might consider hidden homeless, might not consider themselves homeless,” Hendrickson said. “It’s just really difficult to sort of find those people. It’s something that a PiT count doesn’t do a good job of quantifying.”
Since 2018, a number of factors have influenced the amount of people who are experiencing homelessness in the community. Though it was hoped that the numbers would have gone down with the addition of facilities like Q’Waxsem place — which houses 50 people who were chronically unhoused — Hendrickson says the number just goes to show how bad the situation is in the community.
“What this shows is that homelessness is quite significantly on the rise because despite having 50 individuals who were chronically homeless now housed, we still are seeing 116 people identified in the PiT count. Q’Waxsem Place opened up in February and folks were housed by then. The count wasn’t done until April, so the facility was already in operation at this time,” she said.
The preliminary count does not include demographic data, or whether those counted are long-term residents of Campbell River. However, Hendrickson says there is no evidence of large amounts of people coming to Campbell River because of its social services, and that it is highly likely numbers are on the rise in communities across the province.
“All the communities are in the same boat. It wouldn’t make sense for people to be busing in people to Campbell River, and then Campbell River buses them elsewhere. The reality of it is just that homelessness is on the rise,” she said. “None of our member agencies or organizations have indicated that there is any evidence to support that theory… It’s something that gets said and circulated in every community, and we have just seen no evidence to support that.”
The Coalition is expecting demographic data to be released in the next few weeks, which will include things like gender, age and whether or not those counted are Indigenous.
“We’re really curious about the Indigenous population and how that looks. I believe in 2018 it was around 46 or 48 per cent, so a very disproportionate number,” she said.