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Mayor seeks same-day homeless counts

One doesn’t have to look too hard to find evidence of homeless camps in Kamloops. This shelter was found on Friday, Nov. 2, along the shore of the South Thompson River, just east of the CN train bridge.  - DAVE EAGLES/KTW
One doesn’t have to look too hard to find evidence of homeless camps in Kamloops. This shelter was found on Friday, Nov. 2, along the shore of the South Thompson River, just east of the CN train bridge. 
— image credit: DAVE EAGLES/KTW

Mayor Peter Milobar was surprised to learn homeless counts aren’t done on the same day in the province.

It just makes sense, he said, to do that when trying to create a census of a transient population.

It’s a view Tangie Genshorek, co-ordinator of the city’s Homelessness Action Plan, agrees would make sense.

She plans to lobby for the change and also encourage a move away from an annual count.

“When we started this,” Genshorek said, “it was as much about starting the conversation as it was getting an idea of the numbers.”

With several years of data collected and the issue getting increased attention, she’s not sure taking the annual snapshot is worth the time or money involved.

This year’s count found 99 homeless people in Kamloops, with 54 sleeping in shelters and the rest outdoors somewhere.

Seventy-three per cent said if they could find and afford housing, they would be in it.

In fact, said  Genshorek, only one person counted during the census said he chose to live on the street — “and I don’t believe him,” she said.

Last year, the annual count tallied up 45 people, half the number counted in 2010.

In 2009, volunteers counted 103 homeless people in the city.

Genshorek said she prefers to compare this year’s number with the one in 2005, the last time the same criteria used in October was used for the count. That year, True Consulting, using provincially accepted protocols and methods, found 104 people.

Broadening the view, a statistic developed by the Social Planning and Research Council through a variety of means — including random phone calls and focus groups — determined 1,167 hidden homeless in the city and another 183 living in transitional housing, bringing the actual total to 1,449.

Breaking down the snapshot statistics, gathered during the two-day count last month, shows there are:

• 59 men, 24 women and nine children homeless, with another seven people for whom no gender was recorded;

• 52 per cent of the men between the ages of 40 and 59;

• 46 per cent of the women between the ages of 30 and 39;

• 35 per cent who have been homeless for up to six months;

• 55 per cent who have lived in Kamloops for more than a year;

• 33 per cent who report having a mental illness or other medical condition.

Milobar said the city has tried to work to assist with construction of affordable housing and to provide support to the many social agencies in the city involved with the homeless segment.

And, while he said he’s not sure how valid the actual statistic generated from the count is, “at its core, it is still very important to show there is a need. It provides us with a reference point.”

 

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