BY BILL PHILLIPS
At last count, there were 205 homeless people in Prince George.
That was in April 2016. Since then the Interior has dealt with the Cariboo wildfires and an influx of evacuees, some of whom stayed here because the city offers better services.
The battle to help prevent and reduce homelessness in Prince George got a boost from Ottawa Friday as the ministry of families, children, and social development provided the United Way of Northern B.C. some ongoing funding. The United Way has received $167,579 this year, part of $2.2 million in funds given to the agency over the past five years to support local projects across the city that help prevent and reduce homelessness.
The United Way of Northern B.C. has, over the last five years, has been the community agency responsible for administering funding under the homelessness strategy in Prince George.
“It has provided resources and support for local agencies who address the challenges associated with poverty and homelessness,” said Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade, who announced the funding on behalf of Yves Duclos, minister of families, children and social development in Prince George Friday morning. “You know better than anyone else what the face of homelessness looks like in Prince George.”
As part of the National Housing Strategy, the local funding is part of $2.2 billion committed by the federal government over 10 years to tackle homelessness through an expanded and redesigned Homelessness Partnering Strategy.
“There were 205 absolute homeless people counted in the April 2016 Point-in-Time (PiT) Count,” said Roberta Squire, MBA, Chief Executive Officer United Way of Northern B.C.
She said at the beginning of the project in 2014, that number was 122, she added.
“We know that there is a high number of hidden homelessness, which was exempted from the PiT Count. Moving forward, we plan to work towards capturing the number of hidden homeless and couch surfers. These numbers tend to be much higher in summer months.”
The goal, she said, is to move that number from 205 to zero.
Squire also encouraged Ottawa to another five of the program.
Since April 1, 2014, the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, federally, has helped more than 6,000 Canadians who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to begin education; more than 6,500 to begin job training; more than 5,000 find full-time and over 5,300 find part-time employment; and helped place over 38,000 people in more stable housing.
“United Way of Northern British Columbia does important work throughout the region helping to support local projects as they work to prevent and reduce homelessness,” said Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer in a press release issued after the announcement. “This funding will increase access to safe and affordable housing for local residents in need.”