City homeless count misleading, agency officials say

Numbers are double what was reported in Red Deer

  • Dec. 14, 2016 5:15 p.m.

Local agency officials say the City’s Point In Time Count is misleading and that there are more than double the amount of homeless in Red Deer as indicated in this year’s study.

“We have advocated to the feds and to the province to please don’t give your funding to this community based on those numbers,” said Tricia Haggarty-Roberts, director of operations with the Safe Harbour Society, adding Red Deer has been underfunded when it comes to homelessness for a number of years. “We know of many individuals who were not counted because they were sleeping rough and they were tucked away so well that volunteers weren’t able to make it out. (Red Deer’s) homeless number is a solid double (to what was reported in the Point In Time Count).

“The Point In Time Count is a snapshot, it’s one night. The conversations I’ve had with federal and provincial funders is please do not hang your hat on that number.”

When the numbers were released by the City last month, a press release said the latest count represents a 46% decrease in the number of persons experiencing homelessness since the 2012 PIT count, when 279 people were counted.

“When you see a celebratory comment from (City) administration or council about a 40 per cent decrease (in the amount of homeless in Red Deer), the methodologies are like apples and zebras – you cannot compare what happened this year to four years ago,” said Haggarty-Roberts. “You can have people look at statistics and think that is awesome and that is a selling point. When you really dig into it, it’s not quite so clear.”

Meanwhile, she said local agencies have been targeting ‘rough sleepers’ who are those who essentially sleep in camps throughout the area.

“We have been working to assess them and to get them to the CAP (Coordinated Access Process) table to place them for housing,” she said. “We have been able to get some of the rough sleepers housed but when you have been living on the street for a long time and you’re street family is still outside, it’s hard.”

She added there are also homeless in Red Deer who are couch surfing. “Couch surfers were not a part of the Point In Time Count, and that was a provincial decision, not a local one. We also need to be looking at people who are couch surfing.”

The numbers in this year’s PIT count, which was conducted on Oct. 19th, showed the number of persons experiencing homelessness in shelters, on the streets, in hospital and in transitional housing in Red Deer decreased from 137 in 2014 to 131 in Red Deer.

“(That number is not clear) – we think there are only 131 (homeless). If it was just as simple as those 131 people, they are the freshest 131 people. It’s an ongoing issue.”