Nelson homelessness report card issued

The rental vacancy rate in Nelson is zero per cent, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The rental vacancy rate for one and two bedroom suites in Nelson is zero per cent

One day last April, there were at least 116 homeless people in Nelson. At least 34 of those were without any temporary or emergency shelter.

We know this because the Nelson Committee on Homelessness (NCOH) conducted its Point-in-Time Homelessness Count that day.

Of 91 people who were formally surveyed or reported on at emergency shelters and in transitional housing during that day, 27 had no home at all, 13 were in emergency housing, 22 were in transitional housing, five were in hospital or in jail, and 17 were couch surfing.

The volunteers conducting the count found that just under half of homeless people were between the ages of 35 and 54, just over half had been homeless for more than six months, and that 66 per cent had lived in Nelson for more than a year.

They found that 29 people had been hospitalized a total of 75 times between them in the past year, and that 24 people reported they first became homeless when they were under 20.

Those and many more statistics from the homeless count are incorporated into the 18th Annual Report Card on Homelessness for Nelson, published this week.

The most important statistics in the report, according to Ann Harvey, Community Coordinator for NCOH, are about the cost of living. Since 2007, the BC Consumer Price Index for food has gone up 26 per cent, electricity 48 per cent, and advertised rental rates for one-bedroom housing 29 per cent. During the same period, the report states, income assistance for a single person has not increased, while disability assistance has gone up three per cent.

The report contains a number of other statistics including:

Twenty-four per cent of Nelsonites make less than $15,000 per year, and 47 per cent pay more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.

The rental vacancy rate in Nelson as of October, 2015, is zero per cent for one and two bedroom units, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Advertised rental rates for one-bedroom units increased by 12 per cent over the past year, and by 21 per cent since 2011.

Low vacancy rates and high rents contribute to homelessness being a cyclical phenomenon, Harvey says.

“The statistics and statements we gathered show people cycling through very unstable housing situations and back into homelessness, either because they can’t afford to make the rent, house-sharing or family relations break down, or jobs are lost for health reasons.”

Use of food banks was up by 7.5 per cent, with seniors making up 13 per cent of Food Cupboard recipients and children making up 28 per cent of Salvation Army food bank recipients.

“Looking at these statistics and seeing the degree to which poor health, lack of adequate income and lack of affordable housing show up in the homelessness profiles of people surveyed, you have to think something is wrong with this picture,” Harvey said.

Among the people surveyed in the homelessness count, the most common reasons for housing loss were financial reasons (job loss, unable to pay rent, rents too high, 38 per cent), health reasons (29 per cent), and evictions (26 per cent).

The services they said they need most are for mental illness (45 per cent), addictions (38 per cent), medical conditions (36 per cent), and learning disabilities (25 per cent) primarily because rents could not be met.

The full report can be found at www.nelsoncares.ca.

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