On Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, Social Housing in Action and the City of Lethbridge participated in Alberta's second province-wide Point-in-Time Count of homelessness.
This event was a coordinated effort between the 7 Cities on Housing and Homelessness and the Province of Alberta who, through Human Services has implemented a 10-year plan to end homelessness across the province. The seven cities are: the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Grand Prairie, Edmonton, Red Deer, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Calgary.
These Point-in-Time Counts provide valuable information on homelessness that allows members of the 7 Cities and the Province of Alberta to monitor trends and assess progress on the Provincial Plan to End Homelessness. Information from previous counts show that since efforts to end homelessness started in 2008, homelessness has decreased by about 15 per cent across the Alberta's seven participating cities.
"Point-in-Time Counts are a snapshot of homelessness in Lethbridge on a given night," says Diane Randell, Manager of Community and Social Development at the City of Lethbridge. "This provides us with evidence that allows us to reflect on how we can better meet the needs of those who are experiencing homelessness by helping them to access housing and successfully participate in community life."
In 2014, the Alberta Point-in-Time Count identified 6,663 people who were experiencing homelessness, with the two major urban centres of Calgary and Edmonton representing 88 per cent (5,862 individuals) of the total Count. That same year, Lethbridge's Point in Time Count resulted in 140 individuals (2.1 per cent of Alberta's total) who identified as homeless with an estimated 11 people sleeping rough. The remaining 129 individuals accessed the Lethbridge Emergency Shelter, interim supportive housing and other public systems.
For the 2016 Point-in-Time Count in Lethbridge, approximately 150 volunteers were divided into more than 45 teams that fanned out across the city. Those involved included community members, business people, representatives from the Lethbridge Police Service, non-profit agency outreach teams, the University of Lethbridge, and Lethbridge College.
An independent consultant along with the research teams from each of the seven cities will compile and analyze the 2016 Point-in-Time Count data. Findings will be compared with previous reports to determine trends and changes in demographics over time. Preliminary findings for each of the participating seven cities will be released in November 2016. The final report to the Province will be released in the Spring 2017.
Shauna Cox, Housing First Specialist
Community and Social Development, City of Lethbridge
About Social Housing in Action (SHIA)
Social Housing in Action (SHIA) is a community-based organization that is mandated to prevent and end homelessness in Lethbridge through the implementation of the community action plan Bringing Lethbridge Home.
SHIA is one of the seven community-based organizations in Alberta that work with the provincial Ministry of Human Services to implement strategies set out in the Alberta government's 10-year plan to end homelessness. SHIA embraces the philosophy of 'Housing First' - that every person has the right to a safe, secure and permanent home.
Bringing Lethbridge Home strengthens the steps required to prevent and end homelessness in Lethbridge. SHIA has determined the future direction requires increased housing options including permanent housing and strengthening of the Housing First supports. Such a strategy will only be possible with support from all stakeholders including all levels of government and the community. Many of these supports are already in place, and access to affordable housing continues to be a key priority within the City of Lethbridge's Social Policy (2008), Housing and Homelessness Policy, the Affordable Housing Policy and Bringing Lethbridge Home: Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness (2015 and Beyond).
Since the inception of the Provincial 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness in 2009, provincially-funded Housing First programs in Lethbridge have housed over 800 participants. Of these, 239 participants achieved Housing First graduation status. Federal funding also supports our efforts with Aboriginal and Designated Community Funding.
About 7 Cities
Working together to end homelessness since 2001, Alberta's 7 Cities on Housing and Homelessness (7 Cities) is made up of the lead organizations responsible for the implementation of local plans to end homelessness. The 7 Cities coordinate local plans at a systems level and align funding resources for greater impact and progress towards ending homelessness.