City Calls for Urgent Action on Housing and Related Supports Following Results of Latest Homeless Count
October 11, 2023
The City of Courtenay has received the 2023 Homeless Count for the Comox Valley, which analyzes the latest numbers and key demographics for those who are experiencing homelessness, as well as the root causes behind their housing loss.
The results show the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Comox Valley has more than doubled since 2020, increasing from 132 to 272.
Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells says increase in numbers is saddening, but not surprising. “These results clearly show that the lack of affordable housing is a leading cause of homelessness,” said Wells. “This is why we have been actively working with the province to bring more subsidized and supportive housing to our community, as well as additional shelter space. We’re also advocating for increased mental health and substance use supports to address the tragic impacts of the unregulated toxic drug supply. We are so grateful to local outreach organizations who are working incredibly hard to support the growing number of unhoused in our community.”
In the count, an individual was defined as experiencing homelessness if they did not have a place of their own where they paid rent and could expect to stay for at least 30 days. Of the total, 35% were considered unsheltered, including those staying at someone else’s place, outside, or in a vehicle.
The majority of unhoused individuals in the Comox Valley, 92%, have been in the community for more than one year, and 66% for more than five years, with 16% always having been in the community. Compared to the results of the 2020 count, fewer respondents have been in the community for less than six months, suggesting many people experiencing homelessness in the Comox Valley were here the last time they were housed.
The 2023 count was completed in Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland on the evening of March 13 and the daytime of March 14 by the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness, with support from local agencies, volunteers, and provincial partners.
The count represents a snapshot in time, and is likely an undercount as many people who are unhoused are not easily accessible or visible. This is the minimum we can expect on any given day in our community, with numbers expected to increase as housing and the cost of living becomes even more unaffordable.
Key concerns include:
- The increase in Indigenous Peoples experiencing homelessness.
- 27% of respondents identified as Indigenous, increasing from 20% in 2020, and far greater than the 7% reflected in Census population results.
- 67% of Indigenous-identifying respondents reported having lived or generational experience with residential school.
- The percentage of people living with an acquired brain injury has increased from 33% to 44% since 2020.
- In 2020, 33% had been homeless for less than six months; now it’s only 12%. This means people are remaining unhoused longer now than they used to be.
- 51% of respondents first experienced homelessness as a youth.
“We all need to remember that these are more than just statistics,” added Wells. “Each of these numbers is a person. Housing is a human right, and these numbers will continue to rise without urgent action. We need to continue working together on solutions across all levels of government to make sure everyone who needs one has a roof over their head.”
To review all point-in-time homeless counts funded by the Province of B.C., visit the Homelessness Services Association of B.C. website at hsa-bc.ca