When Langley resident David Cornelius started living in his van, he thought of it as a temporary measure.
The decision was forced by a combination of a landlord who decided to renovate, high rental rates, a lack of landlords willing to allow a pet, and health issues that limited his ability to work as a stone mason.
In November of 2015, after six months on the road, Cornelius was subject of a Times profile that called him “The Man in The Van” and described his determination to find a home.
A year later, Cornelius is still living out of the well-organized travel van that he shares with his dog, Yuki, a Siberian husky.
And he has noticed a disturbing increase in the number of people living in vehicles over the last six months.
“There’s about 50 per cent more,” Cornelius told The Times.
“I would call it a traffic jam.”
Based on his own observations, he estimates that any given night in the Langleys, there are about three dozen vehicles in various parking lots, all occupied by people who have no homes.
“I saw a young couple the other day in a van, packed to the nines,” he said.
“I’ve seen five kids in a van in North Vancouver. Not one day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me if I want to sell my van because they want to live in it.”
He said he is having trouble working because his diabetes is getting worse.
Cornelius said he gets $220 a month in social assistance, which is not enough to survive on.
“I call it misery money” he said.
He’s been to food banks, but the most they can provide is enough for two days.
“I’m a (former) foster kid” he said.
“I don’t have a mommy or daddy or relatives to get a hand out.”
He can’t afford running maintenance on his van, which worries him.
“I thought, the sick and poor we take care of in Canada,” he said.
“There is no (safety) net.”
Fraser Holland, the program manager of Stepping Stone Community Services Society in Langley, said the number of homeless people in vehicles has gone up, and likely by the amount cited by Cornelius, but it is hard to calculate the exact number.
“We don’t get a lot of people in vans who come looking for services,” Holland said.
He added it can be hard for homeless outreach workers to to tell if someone is living in a vehicle.
“If they keep their stuff in the trunk, we have no idea they’re living in their car.”
Holland said the overall number of homeless people is rising
“The numbers do keep increasing,” he said.
“The complexity of the issues keeps increasing. It’s just getting more desperate with the weather changing.”
Roughly one in three homeless people in the U.S. live in vehicles, according to a Seattle University study of “car campers,” “mobile homeless” and “vehicle residents.”
In Canada, the proportion is believed to be smaller, about one in 10.