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Comox Valley homeless population doubles since 2020: report

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New data shows a huge jump in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Comox Valley.

There are roughly 272 unhoused people in the region, up from 132 in 2020, according to the Homelessness Services Association of BC (HSABC) report. In 2018, there were 117.

“They’re not just numbers. These are real people. They’re parents, kids, family members, friends,” said Bob Wells, mayor of Courtenay, which is the largest community in the region.

Roughly 72,000 people live in the Comox Valley, according to 2021 census data. Of the unhoused population there, eight per cent are youth under 25, while 65 per cent are adults between 25 and 54, and 27 per cent are seniors over 55.

“More than half the people, the reason they’re there is that they just can’t afford rent,” Wells said.

Substance use, mental illness and intimate partner violence are also major contributors to the issue, the report says.

This year’s count was done by the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness over 24 hours on March 13 and 14 in Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland.

“The count represents a snapshot in time and is likely an undercount, as many people who are unhoused are not easily accessible or visible,” a news release from the City of Courtenay says.

Since the last count in 2020, new shelter spaces have been created.

“This can contribute to higher [homeless count] numbers by making sure more people are counted in these spaces than if they were not sheltered,” the report says.

Wells said the data is disappointing, but not surprising.

“Municipalities and the province are really doing everything they can. The challenge, really, is just that need is so great,” he said.

The B.C. Ministry of Housing says homelessness is a growing issue throughout the province.

“Since 2017, the province has nearly 77,000 new homes that have been delivered or are underway… including more than 800 homes in the Comox Valley Regional District,” a statement from the ministry said.

It says 401 new housing units are underway in the Comox Valley.

“We’re really trying to stay optimistic that we do have a plan,” Wells said. “We are working as hard as we can and we are going to keep working with everybody at the table to make sure we can solve this.”

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