Homelessness and housing instability affects everyone. In this blog, we’re examining the ways in which youth and children are uniquely impacted, and identifying projects in our community that work to help them and have received support from Surrey Homelessness & Housing Society.
The total number of youth and children identified as homeless in the Metro Vancouver Youth Homelessness Count in 2018 was 681. Of those, 643 youth aged 13-24 were found living independently of their parent(s) or guardian(s). Of the youth who answered the survey question on Indigenous identity, 42% self-identified as Indigenous, and through the survey question on sexual identity, 26% of youth identified themselves as lesbian, gay, transgender, queer or two-spirit (LGBTQ2S).
Family conflict was the most frequently reported reason for youth becoming homeless for the first time, with 52% indicating as such. Drugs and substance use/addiction was the second most common reason at 40%. A further 33% of youth survey respondents reported mental health challenges as one main reason for becoming homeless for the first time.
Furthermore, the 2020 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver collected data on youth experiencing homelessness. It identified 193 youth (aged 24 and younger) who were homeless in Metro Vancouver, making up 9% of the population overall. However, this was a marked decrease when compared to the 2017 homeless count, when 386 youth under age 25 were counted (a proportion of 16%). Young people were the only age group where the count results showed a reduction, continuing a decreasing trend that began in 2014.
Of the 193 homeless youth identified through this count, 83 were sheltered and 110 were unsheltered. 54 were children under the age of 19. In Surrey specifically, there were 33 homeless youth under age 25 in 2020 – coming only second to Vancouver, which had 104 youth. However, it should be noted that youth often experience hidden homelessness and are therefore likely underrepresented by the point-in-time methodology that this count uses.
In 2019, the child poverty rate in British Columbia was 18.0% as measured by Statistics Canada. This represents 156,560 children who lived in poor households that year. Fortunately, the child poverty rate has decreased steadily every year since 2010, with 54,980 fewer children living in poverty between 2010 and 2019. Metro Vancouver census tracts found that there were 76,660 (or 17.1% of all children) in the Vancouver CMA living in poverty in 2019, and North Surrey was identified as an area with a cluster of high child poverty rates. You can find more info in the 2021 BC Child Poverty Report Card, produced by First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Society.
There is a significant need for affordable housing and wrap-around supports for children and youth, particularly for those turning 19 who lose the government-provided services they rely on at this age. Many young people in this situation experience housing instability while they are in foster care. Research shows higher rates of homelessness, lower rates of income and poorer mental health compared to peers not in care who have transitioned to adulthood. The BC provincial government has released a new budget which includes $35 million over the next three years to fund continuing emergency housing supports put in place during the pandemic for youth aging out of care, adding a $600-a-month rent supplement, hiring around 80 additional workers to help youth transition into independence and improving access to counselling and life-skills programs.
Over the years, SHHS has been involved in a number of important projects and programs in our community that were designed, implemented and executed by organizations like Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS), SOS Children’s Village and Aunt Leah’s Place. These projects have supported and continue to support youth and young adults in Surrey.
SHHS helped fund staff roles for PCRS’s Youth Housing Programs, as well as provided funding to purchase and maintain PCRS’s semi-independent homes for youth: Guildford House and Bolivar House. SHHS has supported facility renovations as well, such as upgrades to the PCRS City Centre Youth Hub and Resource Centre.
We have also supported SOS Children’s Village with furnishings for their semi-independent living suites and Aunt Leah’s Supportive Suites for Youth in Care project in Surrey. During our COVID-19 emergency response grants in 2020, SHHS funded meal programming and basic needs supplies for SOS Children’s Village, PCRS and Youth Unlimited of Greater Vancouver.
SHHS has been proud to support these projects and others that are helping to provide access to stable and supportive housing options for youth in our community. Thank you to the service provider agencies in our community working to support youth on their journey to adulthood. If you are a community organization that has a proposal for a program, project or initiative that supports youth and children experiencing homelessness or housing instability in Surrey, you may be eligible for SHHS funding. Our call for proposals will open in early May – please stay tuned to our homepage for more updates, and feel free to reach out to us with any questions!