March 19, 2018 10:06 pm

Survey aims to identify key issues for homeless, tailor programs in Kingston

Federal and provincial governments contribute $2.7 million to the project

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On the evening of April 11, 100 volunteers will go out to speak to the homeless to gather data.

The point-in-time survey was previously done in 2013 and 2016.

Bhavana Varma, the head of the United Way in Kingston, says the information gathered allows them to measure progress being made, better tailor programming in the community and identify issues they might not have been aware of.

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“We’ve seen a high percentage of females who are homeless, 50 per cent plus of those who are absolutely homeless are female and that’s higher than the average across the country based on our research.”

The 2016 count found 91 people experiencing absolute homelessness either sleeping outside or in shelters. At that point in time, an additional 46 were staying in transitional housing.

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Many of the homeless population are also dealing with issues beyond not having a roof over their heads, according to Addiction & Mental Health Services CEO Don Seymour.

The not-for-profit serves Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.

“When you look at our homeless population, probably 80 per cent of them are dealing with addiction or mental-health issues.”

Home Base Housing specializes in getting the homeless into permanent housing and operates a shelter for up to 29 men and women.

The organization is often the first point of contact for a vulnerable population that needs a vast array of services to help turn their lives around.

Executive director Tom Greening says people just trying to find shelter from the elements don’t have time for much else.

“Often, the people that we’re meeting with have been beaten down and discouraged by their search for a place that’s affordable so sometimes, it does take a little bit of extra work to engage with them and show them that there are options available.”

READ MORE: Kingston shelter says lack of space isn’t a problem

Addiction and Mental Health Services is trying to increase the amount of affordable housing available to people in the region.

They built one building in 2011 with over 40 units and are now building another 44 one-bedroom-unit apartment complex next to the first one on Lyons Street in Kingston.

Along with the housing, Seymour says they provide the services necessary for their clients.

“Could be psychiatry, it could be nursing, social work definitely, residential support workers who have some sort of training in social work or social services. Sometimes, depending on the size of the program, you might add a recreational therapist.”

The new building is set to open this fall and demand for those apartments is expected to be high.

Kingston’s 2017 vacancy rate was at a 30-year low coming in at 0.7 per cent.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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