On Feb. 16, 2015, a team of health care workers, social workers and community volunteers conducted the Williams Lake Homeless Count. The Williams Lake Housing and Homelessness Committee, chaired by Ian McLaughlin, decided last November to begin organizing for a 2015 count. Tom Salley, Wayne Lucier, Dave Preeper, Crystal Williams, Scott McLaughlin and Heather Robinson formed a team and began organizing.
We decided to use the B.C. Guidelines for a Standardized Method (Counting Homelessness) for B.C. Communities. By using the standardized guidelines, Williams Lake statistics can be folded into the provincial statistics with other B.C. Communities, thus contributing to the large provincial picture. Additionally, the results are more likely to be recognized by the provincial and federal governments if Williams Lake were submitting proposals for funding for services and housing for this population.
Several community organizations were contacted to assist with the count. These included: Cariboo Friendship Society Shelter and Chiwid House, RCMP lock up staff, Cariboo Memorial Hospital, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul. These agencies conducted counts at their overnight facilities or assisted our team during the daytime count. Our daytime count team included; Heather Robinson and Marijean Day from Interior Health, Dave Preeper, Child Development Centre, community volunteers Ollie and Richard Martin, Jackie Kling-Williams, Boys and Girls Club, Wayne Lucier and Tom Salley from Canadian Mental Health Association.
During the count we were able to identify 59 homeless people. Of those 59 people, 32 were adult male, 19 were adult females, three males ages 18 and 19, four females ages 17 to 19, one four-month-old child with mom. No seniors over the age of 65 were counted.
Of those completing a survey, 30 checked the addictions box, 16 checked the mental health condition box, eight checked the medical condition box, four checked the physical disability box.
Twenty-four-hour homeless counts are considered by most social scientists, to be on the very conservative end of estimating homeless populations. The reason is, that we cannot find all the homeless in one day. The homeless population that couch surfs at someone’s place is hard to track, as are those sleeping rough. While there were 59 that one day, the likelihood is that there are significantly more people homeless than we were able to count on Feb. 16.
The Williams Lake Housing and Homeless Committee would like to thank everyone who participated in the count. We literally cold not have done this without your help and involvement.
Tom Salley is an advocacy outreach and support worker with CMHA Williams Lake.