Homeless / Hunger Counts Tell a Salt Spring Story

The 2023 Point-in-Time Homeless count was conducted in March of this year on Salt Spring Island with 165 homeless individuals counted, an increase from 143 in the last count of 2021.  56 were identified as ‘sheltered’ living in emergency or transitional situations while 106 were identified as ‘unsheltered’,  living in tents, vehicles, derelict boats and other temporary and makeshift shelter situations.

Point in Time Homeless Count on Salt Spring IslandThe rising number is a sign of an increasingly grave situation that has continuously outpaced the rate in other BC communities. While large homeless numbers are not unique to Salt Spring Island, our smaller size means that we have had the highest ratio of homeless per capita in the province.

“The numbers do not come as a surprise,” said Deanna Kameka, Housing First Coordinator at Island Community Services. “We are seeing an increasing number of families and individuals fall out of the bottom of the housing market into homelessness as rental costs skyrocket well beyond the means of low-income earners.”

While no other communities have, as yet, released their 2023 numbers, the latest Salt Spring count is a 15% increase over the last count of 2021 – what was then a top number in BC. The total provincial count, including a community-by-community breakdown is expected to be released in the fall.

Coinciding with this key data point measuring the level of need on Salt Spring is the annual Hunger Count carried out by Food Banks Canada.  The Salt Spring Food Bank at Island Community Services has participated in this count for many years. Across the country food banks report their usage for the month of March. 

In March of 2023 there were 225 households served consisting of 322 adults and 116 children. That number accounts for almost 5% of the 4665 households on Salt Spring Island.

“The Hunger Count number of 2023 is on par with previous years, however, it comprises only data of official Food Bank users and does not include the many other methods we are increasingly using to distribute food,” said Cora Platz, Food Programs Manager at Island Community Services.

A growing portion of food distribution is being routed through delivery of other Island Community Services programs including the Emergency Shelter, Yellow Sub Mental Health Drop-In, Child and Youth Services, Seniors Meal Delivery and Family Place. Over 1800 meals are provided every month through programs other than the Food Bank.

“At Island Community Services we are in the unique position of delivering programs to people across every population demographic. This allows the food distribution to flow through a variety of other connection points not available to a traditional stand-alone food bank and it provides us with a more comprehensive view of the true level of need here,” said Platz.