Homeless Count volunteer

Homeless Count results highlight imperative need for housing in Vancouver

August 5 2020 –

The preliminary results from the 2020 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count released today found that 2,095 Vancouver residents are without a home. 

While this number has dropped by 128 since last year, hundreds of people in the city are still without safe and stable accommodation that meets their basic needs. 

The results also indicate that, despite the creation of new housing units, there continues to be a disproportionate number of people who identify as Indigenous who are experiencing homelessness. 

More than 33% of those surveyed in Vancouver identifying as Indigenous, despite only 2.2% of Vancouver’s general population identifying as Indigenous. Racial identity data collected for the first time in a regional count reveals that Black people are significantly overrepresented among racialized groups experiencing homelessness – 6% of respondents identified as Black compared to 1.2% in the Metro Vancouver general population followed by “Asian – South” (3%), and “Latin American” (3%). The final report will include further analysis of this data.

These disparities highlight the continued work needed from all levels of government, including the City, on reconciliation, decolonization, equity, and anti-racism.

The full results will be published and presented to Council in the fall. Read the preliminary report (436 KB)

About the Homeless Count

Vancouver is facing a housing crisis and people experiencing homelessness continue to be the hardest hit. The Homeless Count – conducted every year in Vancouver since 2010 and in Metro Vancouver every three years since 2002 – provides important information about the number and experiences of people who are homeless in the area being surveyed.

The City uses this data to inform its own policies, as well as funding and supports requests to senior levels of government. We continue to partner with BC Housing to create safe, secure and affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness, including temporary emergency measures, such as homeless shelters and navigation centres, and additional longer term options, such as the expedited creation of more supportive housing. 

While the count remains a key tool in tracking homelessness trends, it is important to note some factors that may have impacted the results this year. Firstly, the count took place in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic (March 3 and 4), prior to the Province declaring a State of Emergency on March 18. We know that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on people on low-incomes due to job losses and, despite Provincial and Federal funding supports, the pandemic has created more precarious housing situations for many people. 

The count is recognized to be an undercount as some people who are experiencing homelessness do not want to participate in the survey. Others, such as women, youth and those experiencing hidden homelessness, may be less likely to be included in the count due to the nature of the methodology. Moreover, the stigma associated with homelessness also can impact a person’s willingness to participate in the count or to be identified as experiencing homelessness.

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

In March 2020, the City of Vancouver convened a public partner, cross-departmental team to address the needs of those living in poverty and precarious housing or homelessness who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

The team’s work included:

  • Improving hygiene and washroom access
  • Ensuring access to food
  • Improving access to income
  • Improving access to safe and secure places to sleep
  • Supporting overdose prevention and safe spaces.

This work was made possible by funding from the provincial and federal governments, as well as the support of community partners and regional and provincial organizations including BC Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health. The City is preparing for a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the provision of safe housing and shelter options, as well as additional supports such as food, are key priorities.