Delta planner hopes better numbers come out of this week’s homeless count

The results of this week’s regional homeless count will likely reveal an increase in the homeless population in Delta, a social planner says.

Gillian McLeod, corporate social planner with the Corporation of Delta, said in previous years the number of homeless people in Delta has been undercounted. “Especially with youth, I’m concerned that we’re not catching all the youth numbers that we could,” she said.

Delta is a community with very few housing options for low-income individuals. The municipality is currently at a zero per cent vacancy at all 31 facilities that offer different forms of supportive housing. Delta does not have any emergency shelters and those requiring these services are referred to neighbouring municipalities. “Here in Delta we would refer them to homeless shelters or social service agencies in Surrey or Richmond,” McLeod said.

While opening an emergency shelter is not on the list of current plans, McLeod said this is one of the concerns that the municipality will look at in the future. Another more immediate project, set out in the municipality’s 2017 social profile published Feb. 10, is to review how to make it easier for those who are homeless to find housing. Currently, this is an arduous process. 

“Right now you need to go to three, to four, to five, to six different agencies to ask about their individual housing. And if you’re already having struggles in life, to find out who they are, to find the phone numbers. Some of them you write, some of them you fax, some of them you have to show up,” McLeod said.

Since 2002 Metro Vancouver has been conducting homeless counts every three years in Delta and other communities in the region. Counts are done on the streets and in homeless shelters, transition houses for survivors of domestic violence, detox facilities and other types of temporary shelter. This year’s homeless count will take place March 7 and 8. 

The number of homeless people counted in Delta has remained low at an average of 12 per year, six sheltered and six on the street in the past decade. McLeod expects this number to rise both as the overall number of homeless people in the region has risen since the last count, and due to an expansion in the scope of the homeless count with a goal of finding more people who are homeless.  

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