Volunteering for the 2010 Homeless Count

The eighth count of Homeless people found 3079 homeless∗ people in the City of Edmonton. Of these, 1862 were absolute homeless (having no housing alternative) and 1217 were sheltered homeless (living in emergency accommodations). This represents an increase of 18% in the overall number of homeless individuals in the City of Edmonton from the 2006 count tally of 2618.

-from A Count of Homeless Persons 2008, Homeward Trust

After volunteering for the last Homeless Count in 2008, I started noticing that the final count of 3,079 was cited often – not unexpected given that it’s the best guess agencies have available, but surprising given the caveat on the possible margin of error given the methodology. Still, because of its pronounced use as a likely basis for funding, and more than anything, its encapsulation of the homeless population for the public, I knew I wanted to volunteer for the count again this year.

In light of the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, and in particular, the Housing First model that the plan embraces (having placed over 900 people in housing), I am really hoping that the count finds a decrease in the number of homeless people in Edmonton. Of course, this would mean that the number of homeless would have had to remain somewhat stagnant since 2008, but I’d like to be hopeful.

I headed to Boyle Street Co-op (my base camp site) this morning and met Fraser, who would be my buddy for the count. Our route ran along 107 and 107A Avenue, through both Central McDougall and McCauley neighbourhoods, and definitely saw more foot traffic than the route I had last year along the same Avenue but further west in Queen Mary Park.


Avenue of Nations route

Similar to what Mack and I found two years ago, we encountered many people in this ethnically-diverse area who passed on answering the questions because of English language barriers (it might be worthwhile for volunteers with second language capabilities to be recruited for future counts). Also, many, once finished answering our questions, were curious about why the survey was being done – a great opportunity to mention the work being done and coordinated by Homeward Trust.

It is worth noting that we also talked to a few people who admitted to being formerly homeless, but had strong opinions on what could be done better to address the issues. For example, one man expressed his opposition to the construction of another social housing complex in the inner city, stating that the temptation for relapse for residents in such an area is much higher than when compared with less central neighbourhoods (he may have been referring to the complex for recovering drug addicts that was just turned down by a city board in Central McDougall).

The 2010 report should be out by mid-November. Thanks again to Homeward Trust for this opportunity to volunteer – it’s always a humbling experience.

If you’re looking to give back, consider volunteering at the upcoming Homeless Connect on October 17, 2010. Hope to see you there!

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