On April 18 Prince George took part in a nationally coordinated effort, led by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy, to measure homelessness in Canada. The Point-in-Time (PiT) Homeless Count was administered by the United Way of Northern BC, and conducted in partnership with the Community Partners Addressing Homelessness and community stakeholders.
Over a period of 14 hours, volunteers and staff surveyed individuals in 11 agencies, including shelters, transitional housing facilities and drop-in centres. From 6-8:30 p.m., about 25 volunteers were involved surveying individuals in outdoor locations, such as sidewalks, parks and other public places. To accurately get a number of those absolutely homeless, eight organizations, including emergency shelter, transitional housing and institutional facilities provided enumeration data.
This year’s count is the second time that Prince George has participated in the National Point-in-Time Homeless Count and there are still efforts to refine data collection and analysis methods. While the basic methodology has not changed from the 2016 count to the 2018 count, the data shows that even minor variances can shift the data responses. The questions posed on the 2018 PiT Count survey remain the same as the 2016 questions with just a few minor adjustments. Due to multiple independent variables, organizers caution a comparison of the 2016 count with the 2018 count.
The long-term commitment to the national counts will increase the accuracy of both data and conclusions as time progresses.
It is very tempting to look for the one figure – that of how many homeless we have in our community. However, this figure will always be an under-representation of the real numbers due to a variety of factors. There are hidden homeless in every community. These can be individuals that may be patients in hospitals, incarcerated, staying temporarily with friends or family, or just simply declining to take part in the Point in Time survey.
In general, there has been little significant change in the statistics. The numbers reflect the reality that 2016 saw a slightly higher rate of volunteers and slightly greater community group participation.
One potential anomaly that arose was data showing that there were slightly more females recorded as homeless which is a first for Prince George. It was recognized that there was more participation from women’s services than men’s and it could be argued that this may have skewed the numbers collected. There has been anecdotal information from some services that report having seen an increase in women but there is no supporting evidence for this. We also saw a change in the older age group with nine respondents in the 2016 count aged between 65 – 74 and 0 respondents for that age group in the 2018 count.
Overwhelmingly, in both the 2016 and 2018 counts, government sources were the major income reported amongst respondents and affordable housing was the highest barrier to finding housing.