A new study aimed at identifying the housing needs of people in western Newfoundland has been completed, with mixed results.
The study, conducted by Memorial University's Grenfell Campus and the Community Mental Health Initiative in Corner Brook, found that people with existing accommodations are able to pay their rent and feel safe where they are. But those who don't have housing find it next to impossible to secure a place to live, as any unit that becomes available is snatched up immediately.
"It's really jarring to see the difference between the responses of clients that are already in housing versus the clients who are in transitional housing or a shelter and seeing that it's two separate worlds," said Katelyn Osmond, who runs CMHI's homeless shelter.
The study, entitled Quantifying Housing Needs in Western Newfoundland, asked renters as well as landlords to to share their experiences. It was modelled after a similar study in Nova Scotia, and local researchers teamed up with Cape Breton University for assistance.
The project started in 2020 but most of the data was collected this year. So far, there have been 92 tenant surveys completed and 41 from landlords.
Grenfell research assistant Leanna Butters said they found a variety of populations need housing and people need distinct services. One of the most significant finds has to do with the availability of rental units.
"There is a challenge in terms of the amount of housing, particularly in terms of vacancy rates — they were quite low, so very little turnover in houses," she said.
Katherine Short, an Anglican priest at St. John's the Evangelist Cathedral in Corner Brook, says the church has a role in helping. She said she's going to bring the findings to the local ministerial association to see if there's a collective approach to tackling housing needs.
"It's one thing to do a survey, but we want to look beyond the survey and see how we help people even though we know they are falling between the cracks."
The group will continue to collect surveys until the end of December. After that, a final report will be compiled.