Community : The True Demand for Housing Security in Nanaimo
Every two years, the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition helps conduct a Point-in-Time Homeless Count to give us a better idea of how many people are facing homelessness in Nanaimo. The Count also helps us collect important data and statistics so we can make decisions on where to allocate resources and how to address this crisis.
While the information we collect from the Count is very helpful, it doesn’t paint a full picture of homelessness in our community; we know that homelessness impacts many more people than those we find living in shelters, encampments and on the street. We also know that counting on one point in time only gives us a sense of what’s happening on a particular day/night – versus over the course of a full year.
The Nanaimo Homeless Coalition and United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island have been working in collaboration with the City’s Health & Housing Task Force to develop a new five-year strategy to address homelessness. As part of that work, we’re doing a deep dive into who’s impacted by homelessness. We want this new strategy to go further than the 600 people we enumerated in our last count.
We’re planning for what our city needs right now to solve the immediate needs of those experiencing transitional, episodic and chronic homeless. We’re also planning for what our city needs in the future to prevent homelessness entirely.
Demand Estimates for Homelessness
At Risk of Homelessness or Living with Housing Instability
We estimate that at least 6000 people in Nanaimo are living on the edge of homelessness. These are individuals and families where more than 50% of their total income is spent on housing and where household income is under $30,000 annually.
When there’s an imbalance between income and housing costs, there is a higher risk of being susceptible to falling into homelessness.
In Nanaimo, 1525 people are estimated to be experiencing transitional homelessness every year. These are people who move in and out of homelessness quickly, experiencing very few episodes of homelessness throughout their lives.
Often these people do not face homelessness for very long, as there are many preventative and diversionary supports available to help them – such as rent subsidies and social housing.
People are most likely to fall into homelessness because of high housing costs, loss of a job or other economically related challenges. They are the easiest to help recover because they’re able to tap into social and community supports and their own resources.
Based on projections from data collected around shelter use, there are 179 people in Nanaimo who are estimated to experience episodic homelessness during the course of the year. They are not always found in shelters, as they could be couch surfing, staying with a friend or sleeping in a vehicle after fleeing unsafe living conditions or other ‘hidden homelessness ’ situations.
Generally, people who are episodically homeless are harder to help, but there is still some resilience as they can access more services and support.
This is the smallest group, but also the group for whom our current approaches and systems need to do a better job. There are an estimated 90 people who could be experiencing chronic homelessness in Nanaimo. This group of people are consistently stuck in homelessness as it’s often persistent throughout their lifetime.
Unfortunately, compounding experiences of trauma, addictions and health challenges, coupled with discrimination and system involvement make exiting homelessness challenging, though absolutely achievable through housing, medical and social supports. This is a win for individuals, our community and our public systems.
For more information on how the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition is working to end homelessness, click here.