Prepping for the Homeless Count
Prince George, B.C. – It has been two months of preparation for the upcoming 24 hour count of the homeless in Prince George.
It’s part of a Federal initiative, and Prince George is one of 30 communities in the nation taking part in what has been titled the “Point in Time” count.
Here in Prince George, the count will take place within a 24 hour period from 6am Monday April 18th to 6 am Tuesday April 19th.
Since the Count was announced, Count coordinator Kerry Pateman says the local team has been getting prepared for the 24 hour event “We’ve been looking at additional questions to add to the Government survey, we have been figuring out whereabouts to survey, working with outreach workers, hoping to meet with the City and the RCMP on where we might find some homeless camps. So we are still in the process of doing that, mapping out where our outdoor count will be. We’re looking at agencies we’ll be able to conduct the survey within such as shelters, transitional housing and a couple of drop in centres.”
Pateman is not new to tracking the numbers of homeless in this City. She was part of a team that conducted two previous counts in Prince George, one in 2008 another in 2010. At that time, the count determined there were approximately 160 people who could be considered homeless in this community. This national Point in Time Count is aimed at looking at the chronic and episodic homeless but Pateman says Prince George is looking to expand that . “What we are trying to do locally, and we have done in the past , is trying to get an idea of those living in poverty as well, those who might be the hidden homeless but the only way we can do that is doing interviews at meal places or drop in centres.” That should help identify those who are staying with friends, or couch surfing but not actually living on the streets.
Things have changed since the first homeless counts were done in Prince George. Since the last count, transitional housing and supportive housing have been developed, and while it is anecdotal, Pateman says she doesn’t think the final numbers from the new survey will show a significant increase, “I think perhaps the makeup and characteristics of the (homeless) population is changing.” But Prince George is a hub for the north drawing folks from throughout the region, so the real numbers won’t be known until the Point in Time Count is complete.
Homelessness is a complex issue with poverty, and in many cases addictions and mental illness contributing factors. The focus on dealing with homelessness has shifted over the years says Pateman. Fifteen years ago, the idea was to support folks “where they were at” but adds there have been gains over time “I think the gains have been a wider recognition that people can move on, not everybody, but there are people, who with the proper supports, can be productive in our communities. I think it’s the supports we need to spend more time on.”
The information gathered through the Point in Time Count can be used to direct resources to areas of greatest need and to link individuals to targeted support to help them achieve stable housing.
Similar counts in the future could be used to track changes in the homeless population and measure progress in the efforts to reduce homelessness.
There is a need for volunteers to assist in the day of the count “Primarily early morning for the street count, and then support throughout the day to pick up surveys, that sort of thing” says Pateman. And volunteers need to have some special qualities “Definitely compassion, and people who feel comfortable having conversations with people who have been living in poverty for a long time. We want people who are non judgemental, not afraid to make a mistake, and those who have worked with, or befriended people living in poverty.” Anyone wishing to volunteer is asked to contact Ashley Thandi at firstname.lastname@example.org before March 24th.