A homeless count done in Williams Lake on Monday, Feb. 27 saw front-line workers survey 48 people.
Of the 48 individuals that were surveyed, 14 were women and 33 were men and one was a child.
Anne Burrill, manager of a Housing First Project of Fraser Basin Council, said some of the people surveyed were staying in shelters, some were sleeping outside or were without permanent housing of their own, while others were in the hospital or jail cells without any home to return to.
At least 44 per cent identified themselves as Aboriginal, 12 people were senior, nine were young people under age 24, including one infant, and 10 people reported that they had no source of income.
“One-third of those surveyed had been homeless for six months or more and 15 per cent had been homeless for at least a year,” Burrill said, noting approximately 34 per cent of those surveyed reported a physical health, mental health, addiction or medical issue.
Wayne Lucier, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) homeless outreach worker, said his intake numbers are steady.
“The only people that come to me are couch surfing and homeless and that isn’t changing,” Lucier said. “I actually did a couple of intakes with people that were under 19, which I usually don’t do.”
He said some of the homeless are running into the problem where unless they have a doctor’s note saying why they cannot look for work or if they cannot prove two years of independence they are getting turned down for social assistance.
Burrill said the count was organized in partnership with the Housing First as well as several community organizations, gleaning information from shelters, the hospital and police about those who spent the night in their facilities.
In addition, teams of front line workers went out to talk with people at food banks, drop-in locations, and outdoors in various locations and completed surveys with each individual.
When they did the count there were people sleeping in the parkade at Boitanio Mall and the vacant Cariboo Lodge site, Lucier said.
“A lot of these people aren’t allowed in the shelters and we have had a few more people this year who were hard to house,” Lucier said. “With some of them it is mental illness or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and they are having a hard time. They have troubles dealing with authority figures and a lot of them don’t take medication that they should be taking. CMHA has been going out our way to try and get these guys services, but it’s difficult.”
Burrill said any homeless count provides a point in time snapshot and indicates the minimum number of homeless individuals and is never intended to represent the absolute number of homeless in a community.
“Many homeless people end up staying temporarily with friends or family and are often not captured in a homeless count,” she said.
A homeless count done in February 2015 identified 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.
While the numbers in 2017 were lower than 2015, Lucier said he estimates they only reached half the city’s homeless.
When asked how the homeless responded to being surveyed, Lucier said most of them were appreciative they were being noticed.
Lucier said Housing First has secured more funding to continue.
“We are actually advertising now for someone to work on the project,” he added.