On April 18, 2016, Prince George took part in a nationally coordinated effort, led by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy, to measure homelessness in Canada. The Point‐in‐Time (PiT) Homeless Count was conducted by Community Partners Addressing Homelessness in partnership with community agencies and stakeholders. United Way CEO Trevor Williams (pictured right), and North Central Community Development Officer Michele Brooke (pictured above) both participated in counting the homeless.
It should be noted that participation in the national PiT Count was voluntary for communities. However, it was considered by many to be a critical starting point to establishing a national picture of Homelessness across Canada and would further, allow communities to engage in comparative studies based on national standards. This in turn, strengthens and broadens homelessness data for the future.
Over a period of 24 hours volunteers and staff surveyed individuals in 12 agencies, including shelters, transitional housing facilities and drop‐in centres. From 6 am to 8 am 30 volunteers were involved in the outdoor count, surveying individuals in unsheltered locations, such as sidewalks, parks and other public places.
The count offers a “snapshot” of homelessness in Prince George on a single night. Some of the key findings from the 205 surveys completed include:
- 41 of 205 respondents (21%) stayed outdoors the night prior
- 71 of 205 respondents (35%) stayed in emergency shelters the night prior
- 118 (58%) were absolutely homeless, either unsheltered or emergency sheltered
- 56% of respondents were male, 44% female (in previous homeless counts males were over 64% of the respondents)
- 69% identified as being of aboriginal descent
- 5% had served in the Canadian military or RCMP
- Most respondents (90%) indicate they do want to get into permanent housing.
- 90% of individuals surveyed did not have a permanent residence to return to
- 29% moved to Prince George in the past year
- Less than half respondents (41%) had previously been in foster care and/or group homes.
- 131 of the respondents are Chronically homeless (homeless for 6 months or more of the past year)
- 85 of the respondents are Episodically homeless (homeless 3 or more times in the past year)
- The most commonly identified reason for housing loss most recently was addiction or substance abuse
- The most common identified reason for first becoming homeless was issues surrounding family such as a family breakdown, and family conflict or violence
It was recently announced that the Government of Canada will support a second HPS Coordinated PiT Count in 2018. The second count will include an increased focus on Indigenous partnerships and youth engagement. The timing of the count will target March and April, although there may be some flexibility for communities that conducted winter counts in 2016 and wish to conduct a second winter count. More information on the supports and timeframe for the 2018 Count will come later this year.