At least 297 people were experiencing homelessness in Kelowna as of a March 10, according to a point-in-time count.
The new 2020 numbers show an increase of four per cent since 2018, where 286 people were counted as experiencing homelessness. To carry out the count the Central Okanagan Foundation worked in partnership with 23 community organizations, including the point-in-time (PiT) Count Steering Committee, to develop a community strategy.
Kelowna’s count was scheduled for early March, however, other communities across Canada decided to defer the count to 2021, due to COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the PIT count, 89 per cent of those experiencing homelessness were between the ages of 25 and 64 years old while six per cent were between 15 and 24 years old, two per cent were younger than 14 and three per cent were older than 65.
One in five people, or 23 per cent, were counted who identify as Indigenous or had indigenous ancestry.
Those who were homeless for six months or more within the past year were counted as chronically homeless at 72 per cent of the 297 people. Those considered episodically homeless or experienced three or more episodes of homelessness within the last year accounted for 11 per cent.
Of those counted, 84 per cent indicated they had stayed in an emergency shelter in the last year.
There were an additional 335 individuals counted who were living in temporary system-supported housing.
The average days people in Kelowna experienced homelessness increased year over year, according to the Central Okanagan Foundation.
In 2016 the average days people found themselves to be homeless was 192, in 2018 the average days were counted at 241 and in 2020 the days increased to 267.
The top reasons for housing loss were:
- Household conflict
- Not enough income for housing
- Substance use issues
- Conflict with landlord
- Illness or medical condition
With a population of approximately 142,146 residents, Kelowna’s primary rental vacancy rate was estimated at 1.9 per cent in fall 2018, which was significantly lower than the Canadian average rate of 2.4 per cent.
The Kelowna PiT count is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy. Reaching Home provided support to over 60 communities across Canada to conduct a coordinated PiT Count of the homeless population.
It is estimated that 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year.
READ MORE: Province to count Okanagan’s homeless