Over 250 volunteers began combing the streets of Alberta’s capital Wednesday night to begin a 24-hour long count of the city’s homeless population.
Homeward Trust’s biennial homeless count is used to track changes and trends in Edmonton. The last time the count was done was only months after the staggering slide in oil prices began in June of 2014.
“The 2014 count found that street homelessness decreased by 30 per cent from 2008, but there are many factors that could affect this year’s point-in-time count,” Susan McGee, CEO of Homeward Trust Edmonton, said. “Alberta’s downturn and the Fort McMurray wildfires may affect it, but so may the city’s higher vacancy rates.”
Volunteers will survey people living on the streets, in shelters, drop-in centres and other locations.
People organizing the initiative say it has its flaws but still serves an important purpose.
“A homeless count really is an indicator,” McGee said. “It’s going to miss a lot of people…but as an indicator, because we do it the same way, it’s a very reliable sense of the trend and the profile of homeless people in our community.”
In 2014, the homeless count identified just over 2,300 people in Edmonton living without a home.
The count comes just two days after Mayor Don Iveson met with several homeless Edmontonians to hear their thoughts on the affordable housing crisis as he lobbies for more federal funding to tackle the issue as the Trudeau government works on a national housing strategy.
Watch below: Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson is pushing for more affordable housing in Alberta’s capital as the Trudeau government listens to stakeholders about what they want in a national housing strategy. As Sarah Kraus reports, Iveson listened directly to homeless Edmontonians Monday to hear what they had to say about the issue.
The 2016 count marks the first time Alberta’s seven largest cities will conduct their point-in-time counts on the same day.