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Homeless count shows an increase in numbers in Smithers

Numbers increase in homeless count in Smithers
Smithers homeless count increases to 33 from 29 in 2018. (Black Press file photo)

Smithers’ homelessness problem has grown.

In a homeless count conducted in Smithers on the evening of April 14 and the day of April 15, Smithers currently has 33 people without shelter, up from 29 in the 2018 count.

Of those without shelter 93 per cent identify as Indigenous, 70 per cent cited two or more health concerns and 80 per cent indicated they had been without shelter for one year or more.

New Democrat MLA Nathan Cullen says a new pilot program will give vulnerable people in Stikine greater access to local services which will help tackle homelessness as the communities recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

“People in our communities who are experiencing homelessness have been seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cullen, “This critical investment will give local governments the boost they need to continue providing people with support to feel safe and healthy as they recover from the pandemic.”

Smithers is receiving $186,464 in joint provincial and federal funding for an Indigenous Homelessness Outreach Pilot Program which will provide increased community capacity to ensure culturally appropriate supports to homeless people in Smithers, a New Democrat media release stated.

The count indicates that not everyone experiencing homelessness can be found, during this specific time period, and not everyone found consented to the count, meaning the numbers could be an underrepresentation.

The three top reasons for housing loss indicated 48 per cent of the respondents had substance abuse issues, 33 per cent said they did not have enough income and 22 per cent were in conflict with their partner.

“The Strengthening Communities’ Services Program gives local governments and modern Treaty Nations additional capacity to address the effects of homelessness and keep their communities safe and healthy as they recover from the pandemic.

The program is investing more than $76 million in projects, such as outreach and mental health supports, and expanding or creating new temporary shelters for people experiencing homelessness, the release said.