Reported by Desirée Garcia
The first-ever youth homeless count in Metro Vancouver is set to begin on Apr. 4, and will gather data to create an accurate picture of how many homeless youths are living in Vancouver and what risks they may be facing.
The B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association is implementing the count in association with local schools, shelters and youth-service agencies in the hopes of filling the knowledge-gap on issues that homeless youth face today.
Peer-Daniel Krause, policy manager at B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, said it is difficult to capture this particular data because of the transient nature of youth homelessness but information is crucial to inform and change the state of homelessness in Metro Vancouver.
“Youth homelessness is a very unique and specific problem and there’s a lack of comprehensive data out there on what that type of homelessness currently looks like,” Krause said.
The age group for youth is usually considered to be 25 and under
Zachary Batalden works for the Pacific Community Resources Society, and is manager of the Vancouver Housing and Transition Programs. Batalden said in an email statement that the motivation behind the Youth Count was to get a better understanding of what factors were behind youth homelessness in Metro Vancouver, and what risks young people faced when living on the streets.
“We feel that it is important to capture this data in a way that gives an accurate picture of why young people are so at risk of homelessness,” said Batalden.
He added that counting homeless youth in Vancouver has been difficult in years past as young people often “couch-surf” and stay with friends and family for short periods of time. Such temporary arrangements may offer occasional relief from the streets, but do not provide solutions for homelessness.
Nadia Stefyn, marketing and communications manager at Family Services of Greater Vancouver said her organization provides young people with hot meals and any other necessities they may need, including showers, medical attention and counselling.
Youth experience homelessness differently from adults
Stefyn said she believes a separate count for youth is necessary since youths are affected differently by homelessness than adults.
Stefyn added adult shelters are often not safe for young people, because homeless adults usually have been living on the streets for a long time and can exploit and “prey” on youths who have not been living on the streets for as long.
“If someone has been on the street for a long time, it’s probably harder for them to get off the street whereas for youth if it’s only been a short time, maybe they can,” said Stefyn.
Joe Roberts, executive director of Push for Change said the youth count will help to change policy to improve homeless issues.
“It’s important for us to do counts, because without counts we cannot create a case for the services that are needed to support young people,” Roberts said.