The City announced last week there were a total of 137 people experiencing homelessness according to a Point In Time (PIT) Homeless Count conducted on the night of Oct. 16th from 10 p.m. until midnight.
The count was conducted by more than 200 volunteers who visited every neighbourhood and area in the City, where they surveyed each individual they came into contact with.
This is second time the City has conducted a PIT count since the induction of their first five-year plan to end homelessness created in 2008.
The last count, conducted in 2012, found there to be 279 people experiencing homelessness – however unlike the 2014 count in which volunteers surveyed all areas of the City, 2012 counts saw some areas of the City’s homeless populations being estimated.
Janell Bunbury, social planning coordinator for the City, stated that due to the estimations used in the 2012 count, the data collected in the 2014 count will be the City’s benchmark for future reference.
“We had feet on the ground in every neighbourhood in the City and included homeless who were located on the streets, in shelters, in the hospital and holding cells,” said Bunbury during a press conference at City Hall last week.
“I think we can all agree that 137 is too many, however this information does help us better understand the nature of homelessness.”
Bunbury added of those surveyed 67% were using emergency shelters, 9% were in short-term housing, 16% confirmed sleeping on the streets, 8% were sheltered in public system, 25% were female, 75% male, 18% were children and youth up to the age of 24, 24% indentified as being aboriginal, and 10% were immigrants from other countries.
“We are proud to say that our efforts to end homelessness in our community continue to prove successful,” said Bunbury.
“We can confidently say that our goal to end homelessness may one day become a reality.”
Red Deer is one of seven communities to conduct a PIT count, and according to information released by the City – it is the only community who had enough volunteers to survey every area of the City.
Other cities to conduct the count included Grande Prairie (182 experiencing homelessness), Lethbridge (140), Medicine Hat (64), Wood Buffalo (294), Edmonton (2,252), and Calgary (3,531).
Mayor Tara Veer stated during last Friday’s press conference she believes Red Deer has been a leader in ending homelessness by using the Housing First Approach adding that Alberta is the only province in Canada to have a provincial plan to end homelessness as well as that the province’s PIT counts continue to be a model for the rest of the country.
“We have had a plan in place since 2008 and that plan has continued to evolve over the years in order to meet our changing community needs,” said Veer.
“The number one goal of the five-year plan is for Red Deer to have sufficient housing options to meet the diverse and changing needs of our community members and this completely ties in with our philosophy that public housing is a priority in our community.”
For more information about Red Deer’s plan to end homelessness, visit www.reddeer.ca or call the City’s social planning department at 403-342-8100.