Preparations are about to start to count the local homeless, continuing a series of such enumerations here dating back to 2014.
This year, as was the case last year, students from the Coast Mountain College’s social service worker program will spend a 24-hour period counting the homeless and asking them a standardized series of questions designed to learn more about the homeless and the ongoing problem in Terrace.
College instructor Chris Gee says the local situation is unique as the college is the only school to spearhead a count in B.C. – most other counts are run by community agencies.
“Training for interested volunteers will take place early in April and the count will be held in the third week of the same month,” Gee says.
Terrace will be among 26 communities to conduct homeless counts this spring in what the province is calling a second homeless count, despite the city council and local social service agencies holding the first of what is now an annual event in 2014.
But while the province is financing 16 of the 26 community counts, Terrace isn’t among the 16 and isn’t one of two communities in which the province will spend additional dollars investigating homelessness among Indigenous people.
In the first count here in 2014, 67 people identified as homeless, a figure rising to 73 in 2015 and to 113 in 2016, dropping to 63 in 2017 and rising against to 96 in 2018, followed by another drop to 71 last year.
Although the numbers have varied over the years, there have been similarities with high numbers of homeless being Indigenous, being male and having addictions or other medical or disability conditions.
Last year’s count, however, marked a shift in age groups with 45 per cent of the homeless surveyed being under the age of 25.
Those who have conducted counts over the years have consistently said not all of the city’s homeless were counted, citing people temporarily living with others, a practice known as “couch surfing,” or in temporary shelters.
The 2019 spring count was conducted prior to the opening of a modular shelter complex behind the courthouse called Sonder House. Operated by the Ksan Society on land donated by the city and built with $10 million from the provincial government, Sonder House has 52 units, each with a bathroom and kitchen.
Additional rental accommodation in the city takes the form of converting the Cedars Motel adjacent to Denny’s on Hwy 16 into 21 individual living units.