In Vancouver last month, more than 400 volunteers walked around, carrying clipboards and wearing bright yellow buttons that read “Homeless Count.” They were out on the streets or in shelters asking homeless people to complete brief surveys for the city’s annual Homeless Count co-ordinated by the Homelessness Services Association of B.C. (HSABC).

I spent one evening at a shelter, one block east of Main and Hastings. This intersection is at the heart of the Downtown Eastside, a neighbourhood in Vancouver that is home to a diverse group of people, many who struggle with socioeconomic and housing challenges and others affected by issues of mental health and substance use. To meet the significant need, a large number of social service agencies are concentrated in the Downtown Eastside.