Results of the pilot study to estimate the size of the hidden homeless population in Metro Vancouver

The size of the hidden homeless population in Canadian communities is unknown and of concern to those involved in homelessness planning and prevention. The present study aimed to address this gap using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The quantitative component tested an approach to estimate the size of the hidden homeless population in Metro Vancouver (at a point in time and on a yearly basis) using a made in Canada definition. It modified an approach used in Los Angeles in the General Population Telephone Survey as part of the Greater Lost Angeles Homeless Count. The quantitative research was operationalized in several questions incorporated in a monthly Omnibus telephone survey that employs multi-level random selection methods. 1,027 interviews were completed in two waves in January and February 2009. Projecting the results to the total population of Metro Vancouver households it is estimated that there were 9,196 hidden homeless persons at the time of the survey. Most of them would have been unrelated to the host household. The annual figure is estimated at 23,543 hidden homeless persons. The study demonstrates that this approach for estimating the size of the hidden homeless population is effective. Given the limitations associated with estimating “rare” events, replicating the survey in Metro Vancouver would confirm its validity. The qualitative research aimed to describe the characteristics of the hidden homeless and pathways into and out of hidden homelessness. A two-step process of interviewing the hidden homeless person proved difficult to implement and only two qualitative interviews with people who met the criteria for hidden homeless were completed.

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