Volunteer Dawn Darington, left, talks with a man who wished to be identified as Edgar to gather his information for the 2020 annual Point in Time count on Thursday. The count keeps a record of the homeless community and helps officials receive funds for programs. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

Province to count Okanagan’s homeless

Volunteers will conduct counts in Vernon, Penticton, Kelowna and other communities this spring

  • Feb. 14, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Three cities in the Okanagan will be partaking in the provincial government’s homeless count this spring.

Volunteers in Vernon, Penticton and Kelowna will be surveying the street entrenched population in its communities as B.C. takes stock of its homeless populations.

The homeless count will take place in 16 communities in March and April, in partnership with the Homelessness Services Association of BC (HSABC) and BC Housing.

The province has provided $900,000 to support the community counts and pilot counts in Cranbrook and Port Alberni.

The funds will also support additional research on homelessness among Indigenous peoples.

Social Development Minister Shane Simpson said homelessness in B.C. continues to be a struggle, and data from the counts will provide a better understanding of the ongoing issue.

“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.,” Simpson said.

Dates have been set for homeless counts in 13 B.C. cities, including Penticton (April 20) and and Vernon (April 29). A date for Kelowna’s count has not yet been released.

Vernon’s most recent municipal count was held in October 2019 and found 151 individuals experiencing homelessness in the city — down from 161 the previous year.

READ MORE: Vernon’s homeless numbers see modest decrease

This year’s homeless count is the second conducted by the current NDP government. Results of the last count were released in a 2018 report.

Penticton was found to have 108 people experiencing homelessness in the spring of 2018. Of those 108, 24 per cent self-identified as Indigenous, compared to seven per cent of the general population, and 24 per cent were seniors.

Kelowna had 286 people experiencing homelessness in 2018. The majority of those individuals were sheltered (82 per cent). Indigenous people represented 26 per cent of those counted in the survey.

The one-day counts will see volunteers work in teams of two, surveying people experiencing homelessness by walking pre-planned routes or stationing themselves at community agencies. Standard shifts are about three hours long.

“We are still seeking volunteers to help with the homeless counts,” HSBC executive director Stephen D’Souza said. “This is a great opportunity for you to get involved with organizations working to help those in need in your community.”

To volunteer, find your city’s information form on the HSABC homeless count webpage.

READ MORE: Safety concerns prompt Salmon Arm residents to remove homeless camp

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Brendan Shykora

Reporter, Vernon Morning Star

Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com

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