Community Partners Addressing Homelessness have released the results of the city’s first homeless count, conducted in May.
Group chairman Alex Michalos said the homeless count is a first step to quantifying the issue of homelessness in Prince George.
“It’s not an easy thing to do. You have to find them they don’t wear signs. We know we didn’t get everybody,” Michalos said. “Every community that has done this kind of research has said it’ll take two to three times to get it right.”
More than 70 volunteers interviewed 375 people between 6 p.m. on May 25 and 6 p.m. May 26. The count was conducted in the city core and missed anyone out of the downtown area.
Only 69 per cent of those surveyed considered themselves homeless.
Of those surveyed, only 37.2 per cent said they slept in a safe house, emergency shelter, treatment facility or recovery home the night before. An additional 19.3 per cent had slept at someone else’s home, 7.6 per cent at a hotel or motel and 5.3 per cent slept outside or in an abandoned vehicle or building.
Other locations identified as usual places to sleep included the hospital, jail, campgrounds, detox facilities, rooming houses and rental properties.
“We did learn something about the kinds of problems people have,” Michalos said. “We have a little better idea of some of the reasons behind homelessness.”
A total of 29.6 per cent of respondents said housing costs were too high for them to have their own place. Other reasons cited included substance abuse (22.1 per cent), unemployment (18.1 per cent), fleeing abuse or conflict (8.5 per cent), divorce or family rejection (6.7 per cent), health or family member illness (6.4 per cent), eviction or foreclosure (four per cent) and moving to seek work (4.5 per cent). Only 2.1 per cent said it was their choice not to have a permanent residence.
Only 36.8 per cent said their physical health was good and 47.8 per cent said their mental health was good.
Of those surveyed, 62.7 per cent were male, 36 per cent female and 0.3 per cent transgendered.
Michalos said Community Partners Addressing Homelessness plans to conduct more detailed and comprehensive homeless counts in the future.
“We’re pretty sure there is many more men than women, but we’re not sure about the exact proportions,” he said. “We’ll probably need more people for the next round. It takes time to get a team.”
Michalos said the agencies which took part hope the count numbers will help them advocate for additional resources in the city. Nineteen local agencies took part in the study.
“I was surprised that the agency people told us that the regulars who did this survey started to communicate better with each other. That was interesting.”