We begin this report with information about some of the key factors that contribute to homelessness, including housing affordability and availability and costs of living for families and single individuals in our region. We have found that, although vacancy rates have increased, rental rates have also increased. While rental accommodation may be more available, it is not more affordable. Resources available to individuals and families on low incomes have not increased. This means they still cannot afford current rental market rates. This gap between income and housing costs is an important contributor to homelessness in our region.
We provide information on those at risk of homelessness by examining households in core housing need, households on waitlists for subsidized housing and individuals and families who need to rely on food banks because their income is insufficient to cover all costs. Subsidized housing continues to be unavailable, with 1,545 people on the Housing Registry to access subsidized housing in our region. Food bank use is down slightly over last year, but still up when compared to 2008.
We look at the extent of homelessness by examining the use of emergency shelters over the past year and providing a snapshot of facilities that provisionally accommodate people. 1,617 unique individuals used an emergency shelter bed in five of six emergency shelters in Greater Victoria this past year. While the number of unique individuals is similar to last year, the occupancy rate of our emergency shelters has increased from 95% in 2010/11 to 111% in 2011/12. Further, people are being turned away from one of the main emergency shelters on a nightly basis. On a single night, 1,205 people were counted in temporary accommodation in our region. The majority of the participating facilities (56 out of 74) are located in the City of Victoria. Women were more likely to use transitional facilities and stay in hotels/motels while men were more likely to be staying in emergency shelters.
We close by examining our community response to the challenge of homelessness and housing exclusion. Greater Victoria service providers are consistently housing people and keeping them housed. There have been limited new subsidized units added to the affordable housing stock. Rental supplements for individuals at risk of homelessness or formerly homeless have not increased and there has been a limited increase in the use of rental supplements by families and seniors. While much is being done, there is more to do. We provide some recommendations for how we can continue to make progress in ending homelessness in our community.
• Increase the number of rental supplements available and the number of households accessing them
• Increase the number of subsidized housing units in our community
• Increased understanding of housing needs of particular subgroups (e.g. families, youth, Aboriginal peoples, etc.)
• Establish a shared, integrated information database