The number of homeless people in Kelowna has increased 23 per cent in the past two years, a new report says.

A total of 286 people, one-quarter of them Indigenous, were identified as living in a homeless shelter or sleeping rough on the streets during a count conducted in March.

And the length of a typical homeless person’s stay in a shelter has increased from 192 days to 241 days, or about eight months, from 192 days in 2016.

Top reasons for homelessness, according to the report conducted by the Central Okanagan Foundation, are addiction issues, household conflict, illness or a medical condition, job loss, and being unable to afford rental rates.

Canadians are fortunate to live in one of the world’s better countries, but we delude ourselves when we claim to be living in the best — or even one of the best.

Not when more than a million Canadian children — 15.1 per cent or one in seven of them — are living in poverty, many thousands bereft of adequate nutrition and health care.

Not when the OECD ranks Canada 15th– third last — among the 17 leading industrialized countries in the extent of its child poverty. (The OECD gives Canada a C grade, not much lower than the D grade given the last nation on the list, the United States.)

Not when children in millions of Canadian households are living in sub-standard, crowded, poorly furnished housing conditions.

Not when 21 per cent of single Canadian mothers have to raise their children while living in poverty.

Not when Canada still lacks the national, accessible, affordable, high-quality child-care system that prevails in most European countries.

Over the past few Ramadans, fasting from before sunrise to sunset, with no food or drink each day for a month, I have become increasingly attuned to the plight of my patients and those in our community who are suffering with profound poverty and hunger.

A group of Hamilton area Pakistani physicians conducted a Ramadan food basket distribution out of the Hamilton Downtown Mosque recently. One-hundred boxes of food — rice, lentils, oil, dates and pasta — were distributed to 100 families in the neighbourhood, regardless of religion, gender or creed. We didn’t want to ask questions or demand identification but instead relied on the knowledgeable local members of the mosque to ensure the distribution was as fair as possible.

Of course, we ran out of boxes.

B.C. has the highest seniors’ poverty rate in Canada
– 8 per cent of seniors live in poverty, in B.C.
– 6 per cent of seniors live in poverty, on average, across Canada
The number of seniors living in poverty has more than doubled since 2000
– 33,780 seniors lived in poverty in 2000
– 70,990 seniors lived in poverty in 2015
Single seniors are more than 3 times as likely to be poor than coupled seniors
– 16 per cent of single seniors in B.C. live in poverty
– 9 per cent of seniors in B.C. live in poverty, in coupled families

More than one in 10 New Westminster seniors are living in poverty, according to new statistics released this week.

The B.C. Seniors’ Poverty Report Card from the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. revealed that 11.2 per cent of locals 65 and up were living below the Low Income Measure — meaning they make less than 50 percent of the area’s median household income.

The provincial average was 8.8 per cent.

The top three highest seniors’ poverty rates in B.C. belonged to Richmond (20.3 per cent), Surrey (16.5 per cent) and Burnaby (16.1 per cent).

The 2018 Nanaimo Point-in-Time Homeless Count finds the number of people experiencing homelessness in the city is rising dramatically.

The biannual survey carried out by the Nanaimo Homelessness Coalition on April 18th found that the minimum number of people experiencing absolute homelessness was 335.

That compares with 174 in the previous survey done in the winter of 2016.

“Although this figure is substantially higher than the previous PiT Count in 2016, it is entirely consistent with recent observations of Nanaimo social service agency workers and the local RCMP,” reads the report’s executive summary.

On the day of the count, 55 per cent of those who completed a survey were staying in public spaces, vehicles, makeshift shelters or in places not intended for permanent human habitation.

Almost one third did not know where they would be staying on that night.

Poverty is hard to measure. There are many aspects besides living on low income, including having disabilities or costly health problems, not being able to find decent housing, not being able to understand and communicate in an environment with increasing technological and legal complexity and being unable to find nutritious food at reasonable prices.

Still, the federal government has embarked on formulating a major poverty-reduction strategy and it would presumably like to have meaningful ways of measuring and monitoring progress toward the goal of reducing poverty in Canada – what Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has called the 3Ms.

It’s time the federal government established an official poverty line – a dollar amount of income below which a person or family would be deemed to be “poor.”