On December 5, 2013, Dr. Gary Bowie, Chair of Social Housing In Action (SHIA), presented the final report on the 2013 Bringing Lethbridge Home Homeless Census to Mayor Chris Spearman to be passed on to the SHIA Committee of Council. Bob Campbell, a member of the SHIA Executive and Chair of the SHIA Research and Evaluation Committee spoke briefly about the benefits and purpose of doing homeless counts and how they can inform program development in the efforts to end homelessness. Wally Czech, Housing First Specialist with the City of Lethbridge addressed the past, new, and future programming in the works to address the census findings. Jerry Firth, Social Work student and coordinator of this years count provided a summary of the census which is included below. Click here for the Full Report or use the link at the bottom of the article.
The 2013 Homeless Census was conducted on October 3, 2013 as the 10th Annual Homeless Census, with the support of 145 volunteers. The purpose of the Census is to provide comparative data to the previous Homeless Censuses, to understand possible service gaps, and provide current information for planning and monitoring the outcomes of the Housing First and supportive homeless initiatives.
From 2008 to 2012 we have witnessed a steady decrease in homelessness in Lethbridge. Despite housing and supporting over 225 households through Housing First this past year (2012-13), there is a slight increase in the point in time count in Lethbridge.
It is difficult to determine the exact cause of this increase but from the data we can determine that migration and transiency to Lethbridge, displacement of flood victims, and people recently experiencing homelessness within the past year are significant factors.
In regards to migration and transiency, primary reasons indicated for coming to Lethbridge are: employment; family and friends; and the reputation of community and Housing First support services, including the introduction of HomeBASE, having an immediate positive impact on the community as a gatekeeper to entry into Housing First.
The data shows 45 adults as stating they were new to homelessness in Lethbridge within the past year. 12 recently arriving to Lethbridge homeless, and 33 new to homelessness.
The question regarding length of time homeless revealed that 54% of the respondents reported that they had been homeless for one year or more. Even with a decrease in homelessness since 2008 through Housing First initiatives, chronic homelessness is still an issue in Lethbridge.
Responses indicate a majority of the population living in homelessness has either health related issues; “other” factors not identified on the questionnaire, but related to mental health, addiction, or struggle for supports; and the inability to pay rent, as barriers to obtaining permanent, safe and affordable housing.
Waiting lists for three housing agencies providing subsidized housing and rent supplements in Lethbridge indicate the severity of the issue, with 936 households currently on waiting lists for subsidy services. This is an indication that affordable housing is still a critical need in Lethbridge.
The Census revealed a total of 22 children and youth under 18 were homeless but sheltered. The number of children living homeless has decreased by 13% from 2012, but there is an increase in youth (ages 13-18) living in homelessness.
Preceding the 2013 Homeless Census, various programs were implemented to address the issue of youth homelessness in Lethbridge, with three current youth specific teams.
Despite the recent increase in homelessness, since 2008 we experienced a 59% decrease in homelessness, with an 89% decrease in the number of absolute (street) homeless
Click here for the FUll REPORT