Of the 101 people identified in a one-night homelessness count in Prince Albert, 85 per cent are aboriginal.
As part of Prince Albert’s federally-funded homeless partnering strategy, researchers undertook a survey on March 22 looking at how many people are on the streets or in shelters.
The statistics were unveiled at Prince Albert City Hall on Friday by the man who conducted this year’s count, Dr. Chad Nilson of the Living Skies Centre for Social Inquiry.
He describes the point-in-time survey as a “snapshot” of homelessness in the city.
Nilson said it’s not easy to pinpoint the numbers – because homelessness in Prince Albert doesn’t fit into the Hollywood image of pushing shopping carts and living in cardboard boxes in back alleys.
“We have individuals that are affected by weather, we have individuals that are on the move, and they’re trying to move from building to building, just trying to keep active, trying to keep warm,” Wilson said.
“We have individuals that look just like you and I that are walking around literally hours a day in the community because they have nowhere to go.”
For the March 22 count, two teams worked with local agencies like Mobile Crisis to find hotspots – places where homeless people often stay. Nilson even reached out to an anonymous taxi driver to identify other locations as they walked and drove around Prince Albert.
This is Prince Albert’s 2nd-ever homeless count. Last year’s numbers were way higher – with more than 250 people identified. However, that number included estimates of people who are staying with family and friend, but have no home. Those people were named the “hidden homeless,” and did not factor into the 2016 count.
Nilson says, anecdotally, he thinks Homeward Bound – a program that currently provides housing for 80 chronically and episodically homeless people – has put a dent in last year’s number. The program employs the Housing First model.
Nationally, federal funds will be provided to homelessness initiatives in Prince Albert until 2019.
Although this is the second count, this is the first time it’s been done in partnership with Service Canada. These numbers will become a part of a wider picture of homelessness across Canada.