2020 Nanaimo Point-in-Time Homeless Count

On March 12, 2020, trained volunteers in Nanaimo surveyed individuals staying in shelters, short-term housing and sleeping rough on the streets as part of the National Point-in-Time Homeless Count.

The PIT Count identifies the minimum number of those experiencing homelessness, gathers data about the needs and circumstances of those affected by homelessness and tracks important statistics, such as gender, age, ethnicity, etc. The count serves to measure how Nanaimo is progressing in addressing homelessness, the effectiveness of the current homeless reduction strategies and where further resources and services are needed to support those living on the street.

Nanaimo’s homeless count was led by the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition, Nanaimo Region John Howard Society, and United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island, and funded by the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy and part of a national strategy to understand who is and isn’t homeless and how to best use this information provincially and nationally.

2020 Nanaimo Point-in-Time Homeless Count Data

  • The number of people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo continues to grow, despite efforts to end homelessness; the minimum number of people facing homelessness in Nanaimo is 433, but likely the number is closer to 600.
  • People experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo, are from Nanaimo. 71.2% have lived here for more than five years and initially moved to Nanaimo for the same reasons as everyone else: work, school and family.
  • The majority of people facing homelessness identified as male (68.3 %)
  • More than half (54.4%) were between the ages of 25 and 44
  • One-third (119) of those surveyed identified as First Nations, Métis or having Indigenous Ancestry, a notable increase from the 2016 survey figure of 24%.
  • The length of time people are experiencing homelessness is increasing; 77.1% reported being chronically homeless (homeless for six months or more) which is a 5% increase from 2018.
  • The number of people sleeping on the streets is much higher in Nanaimo than in other Canadian communities; 61.9% are sleeping in places not intended for human habitation.
  • 75.7% of respondents have stayed in a shelter in the last 12 months, meaning that the total number of people staying in shelters has risen by 40% since 2018 (194 to 271).
  • The total number of shelter spaces is approximately 150, which is far below the current need and has led to a high number of people being forced to sleep on the streets.

Current Response to Homelessness

A new investment by BC Housing will create over 300 new affordable homes in Nanaimo, including new permanent, purpose-built supportive homes for people experiencing homelessness and new affordable rental homes for individuals, seniors and families.

The Province of British Columbia just announced in September that BC’s second navigation centre will be located in Nanaimo. The approximately 60-bed centre will be referral only and provide integrated clinical health supports, as well as culturally appropriate services of Indigenous peoples.

In May 2019, Nanaimo City Council approved the creation of a City-led Health and Housing Task Force. United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island and the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition have partnered with the Health and Housing Task Force to develop a 5-year Health and Housing Action Plan (HHAP) to address health and housing priorities. A draft of the HHAP has been created from information gleaned through a series of Health and Housing Design Labs, a comprehensive needs assessment on social and health issues in Nanaimo and the results of the Nanaimo Point-in-Time Homeless Count. The draft plan is now undergoing a validation process with engaged community members.


The complete 2020 Nanaimo Point-in-Time Report can be found here: 2020 Nanaimo Point-in-Time Homeless Count