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Tackling the Homelessness Crisis in Greater Vancouver

In the wake of the 2023 Homeless Count in Greater Vancouver, all of us at Covenant House Vancouver are deeply troubled by the startling 32% increase in homelessness over the last 3 years. This marks the most significant surge since counts began in 2005. These numbers represent real people facing dire circumstances, and we are committed to addressing this issue, particularly when it comes to the often hidden homeless population — young people. 

Hidden Homelessness 
Homelessness is a complex issue and is not just about lacking shelter; it’s a symptom of a much larger problem. Alarming is the fact that a substantial portion of the homeless population consists of young people.  

Young people, often part of the “hidden homelessness” population, find themselves having to make the tough decision of either living on the streets or living in precarious situations. We believe that these numbers are a conservative estimate, and don’t encompass the entire problem. The issue of youth homelessness is a multifaceted challenge that warrants our utmost attention. 
Overwhelming Demand 
The Homeless Count isn’t just about figures; it reflects the increasing demand for supports and services to aid vulnerable youth. The Point-in-Time Count (a 24-hour snapshot of the minimum amount of people experiencing homelessness) echoes this overwhelming demand. The programs designed to support these youth are already at full capacity, and the housing crisis, coupled with the lack of developmentally appropriate options in the community, has left an unprecedented number of youth unable to access the residential programs they desperately need.  

As an agency, we strongly uphold the belief that investing in youth is synonymous with investing in the broader community. We are unreservedly dedicated to advocating for safe and affordable housing, paired with comprehensive support programs tailored to the unique needs of the young residents at CHV. We can’t resolve the crisis alone. It requires a collective shift in thinking, public policy, and a community-wide effort. 

The Faces Behind the Numbers 
It is vital to remember that the statistics represent real individuals grappling with homelessness. Over 47% of those surveyed experienced homelessness for the first time as young people, who are often coming from backgrounds that involve foster care or group homes. Furthermore, the presence of 91 unhoused individuals with at least one child, highlights the transgenerational nature of the trauma and issues that vulnerable and homeless youth face. 

The statistics also show a disproportionate representation of Indigenous individuals, 2SLGBTQAI+ youth, transgender youth, and visible minorities, among the homeless population. These disparities underscore the need for diverse and inclusive support systems. 

The Cost-of-Living Crisis 
A noteworthy statistic shows that 35% of respondents became homeless due to inadequate income, which underscores the profound impact that the rising cost of living and the housing crisis have on society’s most vulnerable members.  

While various levels of government have announced housing and social infrastructure initiatives, the collective efforts thus far represent only a fraction of the required response. Additional funding and structural changes are essential to address the systemic failures that have led to the current crisis. 

Our Commitment to Youth 
Amidst these challenges, our commitment to provide 24/7 care and support for vulnerable and homeless youth is now more crucial than ever. Since our programs and services are primarily funded by individuals, companies, and foundations, we rely on our community of supporters — generous people like you — to help keep our doors open for young people in need. As we approach a challenging season for the youth we serve, we call upon individuals and the community to consider making donations to support our mission. 

The homelessness crisis in Greater Vancouver is an issue that warrants our collective attention and action. Covenant House Vancouver is actively working to address this crisis, but we acknowledge that we cannot do it alone. It requires a community-wide response. Together, we can provide safe and affordable housing, along with the necessary support systems to ensure that youth receive the care and respect they deserve.  
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