Williams Lake was part of the first-ever province-wide homeless count.
Statistics were gathered from 24 communities in total.
Shane Simpson, the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, goes over some of the numbers…
“Across the province, we identified about 76-hundred, almost 77-hundred people living homeless. Those numbers are low. The nature of how you do these counts means that you probably undercount, and again since we know that we only covered 85 percent of the province I expect the numbers might be a couple of thousand higher than that if we took everybody in. In terms of what we saw in Williams Lake, we found 43 people were identified in Williams Lake who are living homeless.”
Simpson says the provincial numbers cover about 85 percent of the province, so that number would be higher.
He says these numbers also don’t include folks that are in what he calls “precarious” housing…
“IE…the fellow who is sleeping on his sister’s couch, or is quite literally one cheque away from being out or is really having trouble making rent and could get evicted. There is I think a significant amount of people that fall into that category, and we don’t count them, so this is a challenge.”
Simpson says they would anticipate that Quesnel, given it’s a similar size to Williams Lake, would have around the same number of homeless as well.
As for why people are homeless, Simpson says the main reasons are mental health and addictions, as well as health issues and affordability.
He says indigenous people are most at risk and they make up just six percent of the overall population in BC, but 38 percent of the people they found homeless were indigenous.
Simpson says all of these numbers will be part of a homelessness plan that will come out in the spring around the same time as the NDP Government’s Poverty Reduction Plan…
“This is a problem that has been growing for many years. The previous government was incredibly reactive to this. They weren’t preventative, they didn’t do anything proactive. They reacted when they felt pressure in local communities to act. But as a result, we’ve just seen the homelessness problem get worse and worse year after year.”
Simpson says it is their desire to work with local governments, with First Nations, with community groups, with the Federal Government, to have a more coordinated plan that is grounded in local communities that will allow there to be a response that makes sense.
He says what works in Vancouver wouldn’t make sense in Williams Lake or Quesnel, and they want plans that are developed locally to address local problems.