Readers of articles in TOPIC about those who are homeless, and parishes that see an increase in the number of homeless folk attending community meals may wonder how it is that provincial statistics on the homeless are lower than we have experienced.

The explanation for this lies in provincial policy, introduced in February, 2009, which uses a new definition of homelessness that differs from the Metro Vancouver/GVRD "Still on Our Streets" report, most recently conducted last spring. It's not yet clear whether this new definition also differs from that used by other cities and towns in B.C.

The policy document directs front line workers to classify aid applicants as homeless only when they have been living in public spaces-on the streets, for example-for more than 30 days or if they were brought into the system by a B.C. Housing outreach worker.

As a result, people who have lost housing two or three weeks ago and are sleeping in a downtown doorway are technically still housed, as far as the Ministry of Housing and Social Programs is concerned. And couch surfers are not categorized as homeless.
None of this means you should disbelieve what your eyes-and your own count-tell you.