Volunteers sought as 'important' Nanaimo homeless census approaches

By Ian Holmes
April 9, 2018 - 5:03pm

Homeless encampments like this one along the Millstone River will be visited during an upcoming census.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — An upcoming homeless count will shed more light on a problem believed to be getting much worse in Nanaimo.

A federally funded homeless census happens Wednesday, April 18 in Nanaimo, one of 70 counts happening across the country.

Andrew Thornton of the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society, who's writing the census report, said several basic questions will be asked to the homeless to learn about their experiences.

“Which will provide local and other governments with the kinds of information that they need to create better policies and real solutions on the ground to deal with homelessness.”

He said about 50 volunteers will fan out across the city, visiting known homeless encampments. He said people living on the streets and in shelter environments are considered homeless and will be counted.

Thornton said getting an updated number of how many people are homeless, finding out the services they access and would like to see, and how long they've been homeless are key steps in helping them.

“It's a really important form of public education so people can really see that things are being done to deal with homelessness...there's lots of work happening.”

A recent encampment at City Hall illuminated the homelessness problem locally. City Council then committed $350,000 to address related downtown social concerns.  

Thornton said an official figure for this year's census would be available about a week following the count.

The 2018 Point-in-Time Homless Count is organized by the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition, Nanaimo Region John Howard Society and United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island.

The 2016 census in Nanaimo found 174 people were considered homeless.


Volunteers are needed for the Point-in-Time Homeles Count, which includes assembling care packages to hand out to the homeless. Those who want to volunteer are asked to email Andrew Thornton at [email protected].

A pair of pre-event training sessions are coming up:

  • Wednesday, April 11, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church at 301 Machleary St.
  • Saturday, April 14, 10:30 a.m. to noon at John Howard Society at #200-1585 Bowen Rd.




[email protected]

On Twitter: @reporterholmes

Op-ed: Sanctuary of the team bus needs rebuilding after Humboldt tragedy