Homeless Count Could Help Shape Services and Housing Strategy
Prince George, B.C. – The data from the Point in Time homeless count is in.Prince George took part in a nationally coordinated effort to measure homelessness in Canada. The count was taken on April 18th and 205 people were surveyed, providing a snapshot of what homelessness looks like in Prince George.
Of those surveyed, 21% had spent the night outdoors, while 35% said they had spent the night in an emergency shelter. The balance had spent the night either at a friends home, a hotel, or jail.
The vast majority of the homeless had some Aboriginal ancestry (69%), and 5% had served in the Canadian Military or the RCMP.
Nearly one third (28.2%) said they had moved to Prince George in the past year, most from Northern B.C. but there were at least 10 who identified the lower mainland as their previous home.
The most often cited reason for first becoming homeless was an issue with family , such as family breakdown, conflict or violence (42%). “That was a bit of a surprise to us” says PiT Coordinator Kerry Pateman, “Family conflict and family violence was the number one reason.” Addiction, (either to substance abuse or gambling) was cited by 22% as a reason for becoming homeless, income issues were noted by 22% as a reason they have become homeless.
Pateman, says the numbers of people on the streets was not surprising, “We had actually surveyed more than 205 people in 2010, but I think more people were screened out (this time) because they did have a permanent home to go to at the end of the day.”
The results have just been presented to the Community Partnership Addressing Homelessness says Pateman, “I think what this is going to do is help other various groups that are doing things. It’s really providing us with some information on which we can do more research or see where we might need services. If family breakdown is the number one reason for people becoming homeless, do we have enough services for that area?”
Some of the respondents did indicate services which they said they needed in Prince George, and the one most often cited, was addiction or substance abuse.
90% of those surveyed said they do want to get into permanent housing.
The information gathered in Prince George and other communities across the country will go a long way towards helping the Federal Government understanding the issue of homelessness and develop a housing strategy says Pateman. “Under the homelessness Partnering Strategy, over the next coupe of years, they’re doing consultations with communities on a national strategy.”
Here are some other highlights of the survey:
- the median age that respondents first became homeless was 30
- 62% said the main challenge facing them in finding housing was income related
- 44% of respondents were female
- 56% of respondents were male. (That’s a drop from previous counts in Prince George when 64% were male)
- 41% had previously been in foster care or group homes.