Complexities of Smithers homelessness brought to Province

Smithers to be included in provinical-wide report on housing issues after homeless count.

While the numbers aren’t in yet, organizers of the recent homeless count in Smithers said it went well.

The count took place on April 17. It was funded by the Province and run by local area count coordinator Dawn Hanson.

“The day went really well, we had a great group of volunteers. The different aspects of the count that we had happening to try and have broad coverage in the community and a wide variety of ways people could be counted and answer a questionnaire worked really well.”

The provincial government teamed up with a total of 12 different communities to do the count this spring in order to help inform B.C.’s homelessness action plan, which will focus on permanent housing and services. The count also included an anonymous 28 question survey.

In Smithers, there were volunteers walking around the community counting and connecting with people. The friendship centre also held a monthly luncheon, keeping their doors open longer to give people hygiene kits and clothing with volunteers on hand to count more people. There was also participation from service providers that were available on the day of the count to do the questionnaire with individuals who accessed services there.

“We provided a variety of ways for people to participate in ways they felt comfortable,” she said.

“The weather was also really good and things seemed to go really well, no major glitches or surprises.”

Hanson isn’t quite sure yet exactly what the Province will do with all the information.

“This is the first time BC Housing has said they want this information on a multiple community basis,” she said. “This is the first time there has been a provincial supported count in a number of communities at the same time with the same methodology. It’ll be up to the Province to look at the numbers and say what does this tell us and where do we go from here.”

She is happy to see the Province include Smithers in the count and said it will be a good tool to look at the issue of housing, especially since there was a community run homeless count a couple of years ago, which will give good comparisons.

“Housing and homelessness is such complex problem that communities can’t tackle this on their own, they need provincial and federal support and partnership,” she added.

“The Province hopes to release preliminary findings from all the counts in June. The action plan is slated to be available later this year.”

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