Penticton’s homeless population has increased by six people since 2018, according to a 24-hour snapshot count conducted in April.
A total of 114 people, were identified as experiencing homelessness compared to 108 in 2018, stated BC Housing.
The Penticton homeless count took place on the evening of April 19 and the day of April 20.
The count was conducted in partnership with Pathways Addictions Resource Centre and BC Housing with shelter staff and outreach workers interviewing people experiencing homelessness.
Elsewhere in the Okanagan, Vernon experienced a much larger increase of people experiencing homelessness during its count.
In Vernon, 224 people were counted in a 24 hour period this May, compared to 151 in 2019.
Vernon’s population is 40,000 while Penticton’s is around 34,000.
During the Penticton count, surveys were conducted primarily by local shelter staff and outreach teams instead of volunteers to ensure that people experiencing homelessness would only be in contact with people who are familiar with safety protocols.
The count found that 73 per cent of respondents had been in the community for at least one year and 46 per cent of respondents had been in the community 10 years or more.
About 65 per cent of those who participated in the count said they are struggling with mental health and addiction issues. Of those interviewed, 84 per cent were either on income assistance or disability, while 65 per cent had shelter and 35 per cent did not, living outside or in a vehicle.
Homeless counts give important baseline information on the estimated number, key demographic and service provision needs of people experiencing homelessness, said BC Housing.
This information will help the province and communities better understand who is experiencing homelessness and why – and the results can inform the development of supports and services that will best help people in need, in different communities.
BC Housing is currently seeking a development permit to build a 54-unit supportive housing for those experiencing homelessness with a recovery and wellness focus on Skaha Lake Road. On the same road, BC Housing has also purchased four motels and will eventually be converting them to some form of low-income housing.
Outside of city limits, there are large encampments of people experiencing homelessness. These camps are mostly along the channel which is on Penticton Indian Band land and along Crown land and Highway 97.
Recently, Penticton city bylaw asked for the NDP government to step in and help with the growing encampments that pose a fire hazard on provincial land.
Stolen goods, propane tanks, feces, drug paraphernalia including sharps as well as weapons are just some of the dangers bylaw officers in Penticton are encountering at the encampments along Highway 97, the Penticton Channel parkway and on Penticton Indian Band land.
The count findings are as follows:
- 114 people were identified as experiencing homelessness compared to 108 in 2018.
- 73% of respondents had been in the community for at least one year.
- 46% of respondents had been in the community 10 years or more.
- 63% of the unsheltered respondents stayed outside the night of the count, 15% stayed in a vehicle and 10% were couch surfing.
The age breakdown was as follows:
- 10% Youth under 25
- 66% Adults aged 25-54
- 24% Seniors aged 55+
The gender breakdown was as follows:
- 64% of the respondents were men
- 30% were women
- 6% were another gender identity
The racial identity was as follows:
- 5% Black
- 1% Latin American
- 11% other racial identities
- 31% of respondents identified as Indigenous (Indigeneity is not considered a racial identity)
- 25% of respondents reported being homeless for under six months
- 63% of respondents reported being homeless for one year or more
A Point in Time count provides a snapshot of people who are experiencing homelessness in a 24-hour period.