More than 170 volunteers throughout Greater Victoria took part in the 2020 Point-in-Time Count on Thursday, attending shelters, transitions houses and walking the streets surveying people and trying to understand the main driving factors behind homelessness.
Diana Gibson, executive director of the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria, says that while much care has been put into locating members of the homeless population this is not a complete picture of the issue in the region.
“We know that this is sort of just the tip of the iceberg, there’s a bigger population of homeless people living in situations of housing that aren’t stable, aren’t reliable but they aren’t on the street participating in the survey,” she says.
The survey is done every two years across the country and is funded through the federal government’s Reaching Home Strategy. The last survey conducted in Greater Victoria identified over 1,500 people without stable housing living in the CRD. According to Gibson, hidden homelessness can look like couch surfing, living in vehicles, large numbers of people living in small homes — “what it really means is you don’t have a reliable place to stay that’s yours.”
Fraser Fyfe-Wilson, a volunteer, became a member of the hidden homeless population when his rent suddenly jumped $500 and he was forced into transitional housing.
“It just blows my mind that I’m working … making good money and I’m not able to afford a place,” he says. “… I’ve had to go through university and maintain a steady job, but not necessarily always have a place.”
The last survey found that the two biggest drivers of homelessness were income and employment, says Gibson, either a person can’t find work or their income is not high enough to afford to live in the city.
“We know people who are sleeping on mats at shelter who are homeless and working full time,” says Gibson.
Fyfe-Wilson believes it’s important for the world to see how serious this problem is.
“It’s not just me that went through it, like everybody does — I was walking along Dallas road putting up posters and almost every second car had somebody sleeping in the back seat, just sleeping,” he says.
The results of PiT Count will be analyzed and released in a report that will help with public awareness and identifying the driving forces behind homelessness, along with gaps in services.
For Fyfe-Wilson, who now has been able to secure an apartment with his brother, he wants to see a shift in the situation here in Victoria.
“People 30 years ago, could work at Home Hardware and put a down payment on a house. Now we’ve got people working government jobs sleeping in their car because they can’t afford rent at an apartment — it doesn’t make sense.”
Preliminary results of the number of surveys completed will be available on March 27, with the final report being released later on in the spring.