A young homeless couple in their early 20s are attracting some attention in the neighbourhood around Cooney and Saba roads after moving into the area last month. They are dressed well and look out of place in their 'home' which is comprised of stacked suitcases, open umbrellas and a sheet of green plastic, tucked into a corner of a vacant building lot near the Brighouse Station. The couple say that their home is waterproof, skunk proof and the dragon doll scares the raccoons away. The couple keeps their heads down when people walk by...they feel embarassed. They young man said that he and his partner have been living on the street for almost a year since his parents kicked him out of the family home. He is working as an on-call laundry person, while his girlfriend is unemployed. They live on food given out by nearby restaurants and food court owners and shower in community facilities.
The couple have money (a government rental subsidy) but can't find a place. They have been applying for houses, going to view places but never hear back from the landlords.
The Homeless population keeps growing. This young couple are just a snapshot of the growing homeless population in Richmond.
The 2017 homeless count in Richmond is currently 70, of which 29 are unsheltered. This includes 10 children and youth under 25, and 15 seniors. 41 of these people say that they have been homless for more than one year. The figure is an 84% rise compared with the last count in 2014 (38) and is the highest since 2005, when the count was first conducted.
Almost half of the survey say the high rental rates and a lack of income are the major factors fuelling homelessness. In fact, more than 20% of the surveyed homeless people have either part time or full time jobs.
Non-profit housing and service providers estimate that there are currently more than 120 homeless individuals in Richmond. The Richmond shelter turns away 130 people each month.
The Salvation Army Richmond House on Shell Road is the only homeless shelter currently available in Richmond, offering 10 beds to male applicants and no capacity for those with disabilities.
Female homeless individuals may seek accomodation in the city's domestic abuse care centre, Nova House.
Just recently, The City of Richmond and BC Housing announced that the Salvation Army is to receive an expanded facility on Horseshoe Way next year. This shelter will have 36 beds for both men and women and people with disabilities.
The city is also updating its affordable housing strategy, which includes new policies to build more affordable housing for people who are most at risk.
The issue is that demand is outstripping the supply. Addressing homelessness is not a simple solution and it's not something the city, by itself can resolve. Running shelters is very expensive and work needs to be done to get help from the community partners, as well as funding from the provincial and federal governments. According the the city's Emgergency Services and Transitional Housing report released in 2015, it costs about $1,932 per month for a sheltered bed.