Counties to count homeless population

·4 min read

Communities in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville will take part in a provincially-mandated homeless count.

The "Point in Time" count is a way to measure local homelessness and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic and housing availability in the area have had. The homeless count will also be followed by a launch of the "ByName List" initiative.

"It's a one-day snapshot of homelessness in our community," said Tracy Birtch, team leader for homelessness at the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville.

The count will provide a communitywide understanding of local homelessness and as well as identifying service needs or changes and help create plans to prevent and reduce homelessness within the region.

This is the first time the Point in Time Count will be completed in Leeds and Grenville. In 2018, a similar survey called the "Period Prevalence Enumeration" was completed, but it was only a sample of the homeless population in the area, rather than an actual count, said Birtch.

"The ByName List is a real-time list of people experiencing homelessness," said Birtch.

The list will be an ongoing way to track people who are becoming homeless or who are actively homeless, but will also help track people who have found housing as well. Birtch said the Point in Time Count is just a snapshot in time, while the ByName List will be continuously tracking people experiencing homelessness.

"We're going to use the Point in Time count to launch the ByName List," said Birtch.

The goal of the ByName List is to have a record of people experiencing homelessness so the counties and its current 30 community partner agencies can help them find housing and stay housed.

During the week of Sept. 21 to 24, throughout the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, the community partner agencies will be administering the survey throughout Leeds and Grenville through canvasing or in house with clients.

They will also hold drop-in magnet events on the first two days of the week in various locations throughout the counties, which is another way for the community partners to connect with the homeless population and conduct surveys.

Magnet event locations include: Merrickville at the Rideau Commmunity Health Services –Good Food box at 345 Read Street on Tuesday Sept. 21 from noon to 2 p.m; in Brockville at the Cooperative Care Centre, formerly known as the Brockville Warming Centre, there will also be a magnet event from 5 p.m. to 7p.m; another will take place at the Salvation Army Food Bank at 200 Sanders Street in Kemptville from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

On Wednesday, Sept. 22, there will be three magnet events: In Gananoque at the Community and Social Services Office at 375 Street South from noon to 2 p.m.; in Westport, the event will be located at the Westport Free Methodist Church at 85 Bedford Street from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m; as well, the South Grenville Food Bank will host an event at 136 Henry Street West in Prescott from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, those who say they were experiencing homelessness on the first day of the count will still be able to take part in the survey, said Birtch.

The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville's website said that homelessness in the area is often not apparent, as some people may be living in unstable housing conditions such as staying in temporary locations, or couch surfing. In order to address it there will be targeted activities planned to engage the local homeless population.

Participants will have to give their consent for both participating in the survey and being a part of the ByName List initiative.

"For the Point in Time count we want to have a greater understanding of what's happening in our county," said Birtch.

"We are going to try our very best to get a comprehensive count. I know we probably won't get everyone but we'll do our best to get as many as we can to get an accurate picture of what's happening."

The ByName list is used for two different levels: Community Level, which is non-identifying information tracking how many people are, or are becoming homeless, and collects information to try to reduce homelessness; and the Individual Level, which shares confidential identifiable client information between service providers to avoid duplication of work and will prioritize clients based on their vulnerability.

"It will help inform us, it will help us make better decisions," said Birtch. "It will help us bring community partners together to work collaboratively through the ByName List so people aren't falling off the radar."

Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times

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