2014 Homeless Survey Shows a Continuing Challenge

February 24, 2015

Is homelessness increasing or decreasing? In March 2014, volunteer researchers set out to look for the answer on streets and in byways throughout the Fraser Valley.

Teams of volunteers conducted a formal survey of homeless people in the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD). The survey was coordinated alongside a similar process taking place at the same time in the Metro Vancouver region.

“Volunteers have been key to the success of the homelessness surveys over the past 10 years, obtaining critical information by interacting with a vulnerable population in a positive and sensitive way,” said Sharon Gaetz, FVRD Board Chair.

The results are a moment in time "snapshot" of homelessness throughout the Fraser Valley, from Boston Bar to Abbotsford and, when combined with Metro Vancouver’s survey, west through the Lower Mainland to Bowen Island.

The 2014 survey shows that change at the regional level has been flat, with 346 persons being counted. Changes in the number of homeless have not been uniform across the region, with the City of Abbotsford and District of Mission seeing increases and the City of Chilliwack a decrease.

The results are still well below a similar survey in 2008 which identified 465 people in Fraser Valley shelters, soup kitchens, service centres and doorways. Further analysis of data over the last few months have provided a more complete picture of homelessness in the FVRD.

The 2014 report not only looks at the region as a whole, but also provides details at the municipal and subregional level. Presenting information in this way reveals that one size does not fit all, suggesting a need for different strategies to address homelessness in different communities.

Said Gaetz, “More detailed information at the municipal level may enable the development of community specific strategies to address this ongoing challenge. By working together with our community partners, I am confident that we can find innovative ways to reduce homelessness in the Fraser Valley.”

Since 2008, service agencies, government ministries and volunteer groups have been working to reduce the number of people stranded on the streets. Local initiatives include housing outreach assistance, street nurses, improved shelter programs, and housing linked to supportive services.

The result of this latest survey will provide an indication of the short and long-term impact these initiatives have had on reducing homelessness in the region. The survey is sponsored by the FVRD. The Mennonite Central Committee of BC managed overall coordination, volunteer training, data capture, statistical analysis and reporting. Other partners include the Salvation Army, Cyrus Centre, Women's Resource Society of the Fraser Valley, Mission Friendship Centre, Pacific Community Resources Society, 5 and 2 Ministries, Hope and Area Transition Society, Agassiz-Harrison Community Services, Fraser-Cascade School District 78, Mission Community Services, Chilliwack Community Services, Fraser Health, and local municipal governments, community service agencies, and others.