Around 230 volunteers in Regina hit the pavement Wednesday night to find out how many people in the Queen City are experiencing homelessness.
It’s part of the point-in-time count (PIT) and is meant to be a snapshot of what homelessness looks like at a particular time and place.
Volunteers will spend three hours counting the number of people sleeping on the streets, in parks or in shelters. It will help paint a picture of the city’s most vulnerable and what supports are needed.
“Not every demographic needs the same thing and not every demographic needs the same services,” PIT count Coordinator, Addison Docherty, said.
“You can figure out what services are being missed and what the gaps are.”
At just 16 years old, Aleesha Henry was living in and out of youth shelters.
“I was just kind of all over the place. I never really had a long period of time where I did have a home,” Henry said.
Struggling with mental health and addiction, she eventually got clean and now she’s one of the many volunteers participating in this year’s PIT count.
“These events show people that: yes, there is a problem and yes, this is a thing — people are homeless and they struggle and it really opens people’s eyes,” Henry explained.
Regina held its first PIT count in 2015 and found that 232 people in the Queen City didn’t have a regular place to sleep.
Thirty-five per cent of those counted were women and 64 per cent were men. The results also found that 75 per cent were Indigenous and 36 per cent were children under the age of 18.
“[The event in] 2015 galvanized the community and got everyone thinking about homelessness on a macro scale,” Docherty said.
“In terms of the things that came after that, you have housing first now, you have the plan to end homelessness, so it was kind of like the launching pad for the longer community conversation.”
This year, Regina is one of several communities across the country taking part in the nation-wide PIT count. The numbers will help federal officials decide how much money to allocate to shelters and housing agencies across the province.
But some argue the count only represents a fraction of the total hidden homeless population.
“We’re hoping we can capture some hidden individuals, not just people sleeping rough or in shelters, but in higher-traffic areas,” Docherty said.
“Because again, homelessness has many faces. You don’t know that someone doesn’t have permanent housing just because they don’t fit the stereotype.”
Prince Albert and Saskatoon are also participating in this year’s count.
Even though it’s too early to know what the numbers are, organizers say it will help shed light on those experiencing homelessness and what services are needed to help.
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