26 different communities across B.C. will take part in the homeless count this year, with a multi-day pilot count taking place in both Cranbrook and Port-Alberni.
The government will be working with the Homelessness Services Association of BC (HSABC) and BC Housing to complete the counts during the months of March and April.
The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction explained in a press release that the government has provided $900,000 to support 16 of the community counts, pilot an extended count and support additional research on homelessness among Indigenous peoples.
The data from the counts will be used to improve supports and services, measure progress in addressing homelessness and increase public awareness.
“Homelessness in B.C. continues to be a struggle for people, and the barriers that they face vary in different communities,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Our second provincial homeless count is a way that, together, we can get a clearer understanding of what homelessness looks like in order to better support some of the most vulnerable people in B.C.”
In the spring of 2018, the Province funded 12 different homeless counts in B.C. communities. A report from the 2018 count shows that nearly 8,000 people were identified as experiencing homelessness across B.C.
The report also shows that in Cranbrook, 29 people were identified as experiencing homelessness, 79 per cent of whom were unsheltered. 46 per cent of survey respondents self-identified as indigenous.
The main barriers to accessing housing included the cost of rent being too high, income being too low, and poor housing conditions.
“HSABC is working with our members and partners in participating communities to implement the 2020 homeless counts,” said Stephen D’Souza, executive director, HSABC. “It is the work of these local organizations that ensures the counts are a success. Across the province, there are teams of volunteers helping conduct the count and hosting community events for people to count themselves in.
“We are still seeking volunteers to help with the homeless counts. This is a great opportunity for you to get involved with organizations working to help those in need in your community.”
The homeless count in Cranbrook will begin on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 and volunteers are needed. Volunteers will be assigned to teams of two and will survey individuals experiencing homelessness.
Volunteers will need to be compassionate, accepting, comfortable with one-on-one conversations and between the ages of 19 and 70.
To learn more or to sign up to volunteer, visit hsa-bc.ca.
Another initiative that aims to address homelessness is The Coldest Night of the Year walk, which is also coming up in Cranbrook on Saturday, February 22, 2020.
The event is spearheaded by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Kootenays, with the goal of raising money for charities serving the homeless people in the community.
This year CMHA aim to raise $20,000. The funds raised will be used to support the Kootenay Haven Women’s Transition House, with some funds going to subsidizing housing and a portion will go to the Cranbrook Salvation Army.
With files from Paul Rodgers.