The 2020 Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count identified 132 individuals experiencing homelessness conducted in the Comox Valley. The 2018 count identified 117 people. File photo

The 2020 Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count identified 132 individuals experiencing homelessness conducted in the Comox Valley. The 2018 count identified 117 people. File photo

Comox Valley homeless count indicates increase in numbers

The provincial government provided Courtenay council with final data from the Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count conducted in the Comox Valley last March. The local exercise identified 132 individuals experiencing homelessness. The 2018 count identified 117 people.

“Regrettably, homelessness continues to be an issue in our communities but it is important to have data supporting the numbers as we try to take steps to do something about it,” Coun. Doug Hillian, who participated in the 2020 count, said at the Feb. 16 meeting.

Coun. Manno Theos said it’s clear the numbers are going in the wrong direction, and that simply spending money is not the solution.

“I think what we’re doing, to some degree, is not working across the province,” Theos said. “We have to approach it in a different way.”

Coun. Wendy Morin noted that youth (under 25) and seniors comprise about one-third of the 132 individuals identified.

Hillian said the homeless problem has been “a long-time in the making,” noting the late-1980s when the federal government retired its debt, partially by no longer funding housing development, which coincided with a prior move to no longer house individuals with mental health issues in institutions.

“A good move but with side effects that have been borne out over these many years,” Hillian said. “We’re not going to solve this problem overnight, but I think we can take some consolation in the fact that our community has stepped up, is working together, and we are seeing housing built like we haven’t seen it built before.”

PIT counts provide a snapshot of people experiencing homelessness in a 24-hour period. The Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness conducted the exercise, in collaboration with the Homelessness Services Association of BC (HSABC). The latter is reviewing data from the local count, which will be shared later this year.