Some of Burnaby's most vulnerable citizens have seen more struggles during COVID-19 than before the pandemic.
During the evening of March 3, 2021, and during the day on March 4, the Task Force to End Homelessness in Burnaby conducted its point-in-time homeless count to provide a snapshot of homelessness in the city.
The task force is supported by and comprised of housing and health-care providers, social services, city, RCMP, Fraser Health, inter-faith communities, businesses and residents who plan together to address homelessness in Burnaby.
"Homelessness is an issue often overlooked and under-addressed due to stigma associated with homelessness," a release from the task force reads.
Executive director of the task force Carol-Ann Flanagan and Teresa Rossiello led volunteers this past March to conduct the snapshot.
The results saw an 80% increase (124) from the previous homeless count that was conducted in 2017 (69).
Rossiello said only one in four people wanted to be included in the homeless count. COVID-19 then struck one week later.
An outreach centre that operates each Thursday morning at Southside Community Church and operated by the task force was serving roughly 80 guests per week before the pandemic.
Now, they serve just under 200 guests every week, which equates to a 150% increase.
The March 2019-20 snapshot compared to the 2020-21 snapshot are as follows:
- Bylaw complaints of people living in vehicles
- March 2019-20: 14
- March 2020-21: 28
- Total increase: 100%
- Service calls regarding camps and vehicles
- March 2019-20: 111
- March 2020-21: 142
- Total increase: 27.93%
- Private property complaints
- March 2019-20: 121
- March 2020-21: 141
- Total increase: 16.53%
- Transit police interactions (within Burnaby)
- March 2019-20: 407
- March 2020-21: 447
- Total increase: 9.83%
- Progressive Housing Society Turn Aways
- March 2019-20: 455
- March 2020-21: 691
- Total increase: 51.87%
- RCMP Interactions - Men
- March 2019-20: 43
- March 2020-21: 179
- Total increase: 316.28%
- RCMP Interactions - Women
- March 2019-20: 22
- March 2020-21: 67
- Total increase: 204.55%
- RCMP Interactions - Camps
- March 2019-20: 77
- March 2020-21: 239
- Total increase: 210.39%
- Emergency Weather Response
- March 2019-20: 260
- March 2020-21: 218
- Total decrease: -16.15%
The Emergency Weather Response opened a total of 60 nights during 2019-20 (260 guests) while the response was opened just 41 nights during 2020-21 (218 guests).
Data collected was sourced from RCMP, Transit Police, the City of Burnaby, Lookout Society and the Progressive Housing Society.