Two representatives from a program administered by BC Housing described their mandate to the RDEK board of directors and also plugged an upcoming fundraiser to help support homelessness in Cranbrook.
Tracy Pound and Erin Pan with the Homeless Outreach Program, part of Community Connections Society of SE BC, also plugged an upcoming fundraiser — the Coldest Night of the Year — which will raise money for local homelessness support services.
“We do end up getting a lot of referrals from outlying communities, so we get referrals from the Elk Valley, from Invermere, Radium, we get referrals from Creston…
“The problem is that homelessness affects all of those communities and that many of those communities don’t have the resources that Cranbrook does, so we get a lot of referrals.”
The mission of the Homeless Outreach Program is two-fold with homeless outreach services and a homeless prevention services.
People who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness can apply for subsidies for what is intended to be a temporary solution-based subsidy to help with an emergency situation such as an eviction.
Clients run anywhere from youth to seniors, the oldest one being 89 years old, according to Pound.
“Unfortunately we are seeing a trend in individuals 55 and older, which make up 25 per cent of the population in which we serve, so that’s a sad thing in that we’re seeing that statistic increase,” she said.
In the 2016 calendar year, Pan says Cranbrook has 111 clients who are directly homeless, but that number could be higher as it doesn’t factor in family members, wives and children.
Over the last 12 months, there have been 2017 fresh faces who have made contact with the Homeless Outreach Program.
Homelessness comes in different forms with different stereotypes, said Pound.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that when they hear homelessness, they think about the individuals who are absolutely homeless and on the street, but homelessness or people at risk of homelessness affects a broad range of peoples, so the issues that impact people are things like job loss.
“…If someone loses their job, if they don’t have any money coming in, if they’re not eligible for EI or EI runs out and they can’t get another job, that’s an issue.
“We know that unemployment in this area tends to be high, many of the jobs are part time or they are in a lower paying field, so it’s tough for people to live with the cost of living.”
A sudden illness, such as cancer, the death of a loved one, and fixed incomes for seniors with an ever-rising cost of living can also be a catalyst for homelessness.
Part of what makes the program effective is that Pound and Pan can provide referrals to other agencies that can also provide additional services. Last year, the program had over 1,000 referrals to other agencies and 357 appointments with other agencies to help solve outstanding issues with clients.
Soon, the two are hoping to organize point and time count to get updated data on the homelessness situation in Cranbrook.
“A point and time count is basically done over the course of a specific period where a number of volunteers and staff that are familiar with the situation go out into the community and approach individuals to try and get an idea of how many people are actually homeless at that time,” said Pound.
The program is also preparing for a fundraiser, ‘The Coldest Night of the Year’ on Feb. 25, which will include a walk around Cranbrook at night to raise funds and awareness for local homeless support services.