November 30, 2016 1:14 pm
Updated: November 30, 2016 9:49 pm

Edmonton non-profit voices concern over latest homeless count

WATCH ABOVE: Boyle Street Community Services says it's surprised to hear a recent homeless count shows the number of Edmontonians without a home is declining. As Fletcher Kent reports, they say given what they've seen, those numbers may not be accurate.

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A non-profit organization is cautioning Edmontonians to be wary of the latest count that shows there are nearly a quarter fewer homeless people in Edmonton than two years earlier.

Boyle Street Community Services said it has serious concerns about the figures in Homeward Trust’s latest biennial homeless count, which recorded 1,752 homeless people in Edmonton compared to 2,300 in 2014.

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“While I dearly wish they were true, they simply don’t reflect what we are seeing on the ground and we would urge caution in accepting their accuracy,” Boyle Street executive director Julian Daly said.

READ MORE: Edmonton homelessness drops 24% in 2 years: Homeward Trust

The numbers also show since 2008, homelessness has gone down by 43 per cent. In 2009, the City of Edmonton and the province launched a 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Daly said agency worker’s experience has been much different than what the count indicates. The Boyle Street executive director said while the count indicated there were 30 people living in the river valley and parks, outreach teams have worked with over 800 people living rough this year, and saw a 43 per cent increase in people camping in the river valley.

“Another key indicator of homelessness is how many people use Boyle Street as a place to pick up their mail. This number has also increased dramatically – from 1,600 last year to 2,200, all of whom don’t have an address of their own and we can assume are largely homeless,” Daly said.

READ MORE: Calls for more Edmonton social housing instead of $2M homeless camp removal

Daly said he’s concerned some homeless Edmontonians weren’t counted for various reasons, including that some people don’t admit to being homeless.

“We understand that at one agency on the day of the count, of 100 people approached, only two would agree to being listed as not having a home.”

This year was the first time that Alberta’s seven largest cities conducted their count on the same day.

READ MORE: Edmonton opens first-of-its-kind housing facility for people with FASD

Daily called the homeless count a “flawed methodology.” He also pointed out the process for the river valley count was done between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.; whereas, last year staff and volunteers spent the day tracking down the homeless.

“We’re quite baffled about the latest figures, and know they’re not consistent with what we believe to be true,” Daly said.

“They just don’t add up. And in talking to other inner city EDs they tell me that they are as busy or busier than they have ever been and that they feel homelessness is definitely on the rise, particularly with the economic downturn and the aftermath of the Fort McMurray fire.”

— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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