A total 22 people were found to be homeless on one day in Smithers but the number could be higher, according to the results of a report released at the Old Church Thursday.
On Nov. 28, 2014 the Smithers Action Group Association (SAGA) ran the first ever survey aimed at counting the number of homeless people in Smithers.
The method known as a “homeless count” has been used in other communities including Metro Vancouver to measure the extent of homelessness in a particular area.
Volunteers asked a series of questions on pre-determined street routes to identify 22 people as being homeless on that day.
Of those, eight are considered “unsheltered” or street homeless, 13 were “sheltered” homeless living in emergency shelter or transition houses, and one had no fixed address.
For the purposes of the survey, a homeless person is defined as someone who does not have a place of their own where they could expect to stay for more than 30 days and who does not pay rent.
At today’s presentation, project coordinator Nicole Oud said the number could be higher because it was difficult to survey couch surfers, known as the hidden homeless.
“You don’t necessarily see them on the street or in the communities much but they still don’t have access to permanent housing so this is something that’s faced by all counts and I think we faced this as well,” she said.
Oud said the survey took place on a very cold day with temperatures of about to -20 degrees Celsius.
SAGA president Joanna Voss said it was likely the cold weather impacted the results of the survey.
“We know that we got a fair number of people but we know that there were probably many more that were just hiding out of the cold,” she said.
The survey identified more men were homeless than women, and that 92 per cent of the homeless individuals identified as being aboriginal.
The report says the three core challenges for the homeless community are housing affordability, service gaps and “barriers and racism”.
It also includes more detailed information about service provision, demographics and findings based on interviews with local service providers.
SAGA is working towards building a supported living complex for homeless people in Smithers.
The count was held to collect numbers it can use in applications for funding to build that facility, but also to generate conversation about the issue of homelessness in the wider community.
The full report is available online at the Town of Smithers website: www.smithers.ca.