Homeless set up a camp against the Vineyard Church in Langley City last April.

Homeless count aims to identify region’s most vulnerable citizens

More than 1,200 volunteers participated in regional tally of homeless people, which takes place every three years in Metro Van

Dozens of volunteers took to Langley’s wet and cold streets and wooded areas, looking under bridges, at back alleys and under stairwells on Wednesday, March 8, in search of people who are homeless.

The previous day, more than 1,200 volunteers were out, tallying up the number of homeless people in Metro Vancouver shelters as part of the regional homeless count that takes place every three years.

The final data won’t be available until April, but Peer-Daniel Krause, the policy manager of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, says there have been no surprises so far.

“I got feedback from three shelters and they were all very happy,” he said.

An emergency weather response was called Tuesday night which means that extra beds were opened up including at the Gateway of Hope homeless shelter which has been working at — or over — capacity since December.

“This is the first time in the history of the homeless count that this has happened,” Krause said.

“One of the challenges for us will be in the data analysis and to which degree we’re able to actually separate the shelter beds from the emergency weather response rate.”

The 2014 count captured 2,777 homeless people living in Metro Vancouver, up four per cent from 2008. The two most common reasons were high rent and low income.

In Langley, the 2014 count found 92 homeless people in the Langleys, including 34 sheltered (and one accompanied child), three with no fixed address, and 54 unsheltered homeless.

Veteran outreach worker Fraser Holland, with Starting Point, predicts the number of homeless has grown over the past three years.

The number may even double from 2014.

Holland hopes this year’s count will be more accurate and will have more depth than past ones, noting that for the first time in Langley, it will include the number of homeless in the Township as well as the City.

There is an estimated 160 youth in Langley who have been homeless during a year.

They often couch surf and are harder to include in the count, said Holland. A home is being built for homeless youth.

It is expected to open in July.

Files from Black Press reporters Katya Slepian and Troy Landreville