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Homelessness increase in Smithers

Survey conducted in April shows homelessness in Smithers has increased over the past four years.
Concept design for the Smithers supportive housing project on Railway Avenue. (BC Housing)

A survey conducted in April shows that homelessness in Smithers has increased over the past four years.

The Smithers Action Group conducted a homelessness count in November of 2014 and found that 22 people were without homes. Ninety-two percent of them identified as Indigenous, while Indigenous citizens only made up 12 percent of Smithers’ population.

In a letter to Smithers’ town council sent by Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson and Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson, the Province of B.C. conducted homeless counts in 12 communities this year, including Smithers, in order to gather data for their Homelessness Action Program.

The count took place on April 17 and was run by local coordinator Dawn Hanson. Robinson and Simpson summarized the collected data in a document attached to their letter:

• A total of 29 individuals were identified as experiencing homelessness during the count in Smithers.

• The majority of people who identified as experiencing homelessness were unsheltered (62 per cent).

• Roughly three quarters of respondents (72 per cent) reported identifying as Indigenous.

• More than half of respondents reported identifying as male (54 per cent).

• About three quarters of respondents (76 per cent) were between the ages of 25 and 54.

The Province of B.C.’s final report will be released this fall.

A three-storey, 24-unit modular housing building is being constructed for completion this fall at Railway Avenue and Queen Street in Smithers. The housing built by BC Housing and run by Smithers Community Services Association is meant to give homeless locals a home and start them on the road to independence.

Read more: ‘They’re not homeless, Smithers is their home. They’re houseless’

Read more: 3-storey supportive housing closer to reality

With files from Marisca Bakker and Chris Gareau.

Lisa Glaim from Smithers has been living on the street for the last 10 years. She says any housing needs to allow her dogs Hannah (left) and Booboo. (Chris Gareau photo)