About Homelessness

Homelessness In Nanaimo

Like many cities across Canada, Nanaimo is in the midst of an affordable housing and homelessness crisis.

The minimum number of people facing homelessness in Nanaimo is 433, but likely the number is closer to 600; an increase of 29% since 2018 (335) and 149% since 2016 (174). Already strained services for vulnerable residents are unable to keep up with demand.

Making A Difference

Someone experiencing homelessness lives day-to-day, with no certainty when or where they’ll be able to eat, bathe or sleep.

They live without the basic amenities many of us take for granted. When focused on survival, it’s near impossible for someone without the security of shelter and stability of regular meals to think about recovery, health and employment.


What Causes Homelessness?

The Nanaimo Homeless Coalition recognizes how challenging homelessness is in our community. Nanaimo and region are not unique in facing a big increase in homelessness. Communities across BC and Canada are challenged by the rapid increase in homelessness and the opioid crisis’.

1. Affordability

Ideally, less than 30% of your income is spent on housing. Almost half (47.4%) of Nanaimo’s renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing.1 In 2018, rent for a two-bedroom apartment increased by nearly 10% while the average BC wage increased by only 2.4%. Rental rate increases are outpacing wages, making housing in Nanaimo unaffordable.2

2. Insecure Housing

The 2020 Nanaimo Point-in-Time Count made clear that once a person loses their home or chooses to leave unsafe housing, it’s very difficult for them to secure housing again. Increased rents have made previously affordable homes out-of-reach for those with low incomes. Landlords have a larger tenant pool, making tough competition for those with poor credit and/or mental or physical health problems.

3. Low Wages

The median income for those living alone or with non-relatives is $27,850, which means that 45.5% of single people earn less than $25,000 a year. Almost a third (29%) of single parent families earn less than $25,000 a year.3

1 2019 Nanaimo Vital Signs Report
2 Health & Housing Nanaimo – Backgrounder
3 Source: Statistics Canada, Family and Individual Taxfiler Data

4. Mental Health & Addictions

While not everyone who is homeless has a substance use disorder, a high number do suffer with substance use and it’s typically related to an underlying mental health challenge. A significant number of people experiencing homelessness suffer from both severe mental illness and addictions. In the past few years, impacts of the opioid crisis have complicated things further, making it even more difficult to address mental health and substance use.

Making An Impact

How We’re Taking Action

Tackling the root causes of homelessness requires intervention at all levels. Without financial investment and resources from all levels of government and the support of many non-profit organizations on the ground, solving this issue would be impossible.

More Information


Visit Canada Alliance to End Homelessness and Homeless Hub for extensive information around the challenges and solutions communities are experiencing. The Homeless Coalition and the Nanaimo Health and Housing Task Force are committed to learning from other communities, bringing together the right people and developing locally relevant solutions.

What Causes Homelessness?
The Cost of Homelessness
Types of Housing

Real Answers to Real Questions About Homelessness

Affordable Housing
What’s Driving Homelessness
Temporary Supportive Housing
Homelessness in Nanaimo
Housing & Homelessness Glossary

2020 Nanaimo PIT Count
2018 Nanaimo PIT Count
2019 Nanaimo Vital Signs

Resources to help you

Do You Need Help?

If you’re looking for mental health support, shelter, addictions treatment, food banks and more, BC 211 can help.

Or search HelpSeeker for access to over 770 services, programs and resources in Nanaimo.