PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. -- The results of the 2021 Smithers homeless count have identified 33 people as experiencing homelessness in the town.

The count was conducted in a 24-hour stretch from the evening of April 14th to the day of April 15th.

The results are an increase from 29 people experiencing homeless in 2018.

Smithers Mayor Gladys Atrill says the number is concerning, and it’s higher than she hoped it would be.

“We're seeing 33 people living with inadequate or no shelter, and that is up from the last [count],” she said.

“It's only a few, but a few people matter in a small community. We’re at 33, compared to 29 in 2018. So up at all matters. It would be great if we were doing better at that.”

The count also surveyed the town’s homeless population on its demographics. 48 per cent of respondents listed substance abuse as a reason for housing loss. 33 per cent pointed to a lack of income and 22 per cent listed a conflict with a partner.

Likewise, two thirds of respondents said they struggled with addiction. 56 per cent said they had a medical condition and 48 per cent said they had a mental health issue.

93 per cent of respondents identified as Indigenous, and 48 per cent said they had been in foster care, a youth group home, or under a youth agreement.  

Atrill said a lack of affordable housing plays a role in the town’s homelessness situation, but she also pointed to a lack of supports for people with addictions or mental health issues.

“I think housing is a big piece, but also having mental health supports more available and having detox available in the community,” she said.

“There are people that I think would take up the opportunity for detox and rehabilitation if they didn't have to leave town. People are attached to their family units – they’re attached to their community. The struggles are great. So when folks are offered a chance to go, but it's somewhere else, sometimes that somewhere else is enough that they don't go.”

The survey also notes that its results are an undercount of the town’s homeless population, since not everyone experiencing homelessness can be found and not everyone who is found agrees to be surveyed.