The Largest Coordinated Homelessness Count in Rural Alberta
by Danielle Moffatt
The Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) recently released a report on homelessness and housing instability in rural Alberta, after undertaking, in partnership with the Family and Community Support Services Association of Alberta (FCSSAA), the largest data collection effort to date. The survey included 1,771 individuals spread across 20 rural communities, representing roughly 0.6% of the total population of 291,531 (Statistics Canada 2016).
The information gleaned from the research undertaken suggests that there is a glaring need for housing support programs as approximately 62% of the respondents showed that they did not have stable housing and/ or were at risk of losing their housing.
Respondents attributed housing instability to, among other things, “low income, inability to pay rent / mortgage, and job loss.” It is likely that Alberta’s current economic, crisis which started some time in 2014, has exacerbated the reports of housing instability and ARDN has indicated that it intends to quantify the effect in the next homelessness survey slated for Fall 2020. Dee Ann Benard, Executive Director of ARDN, believes that, “in the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession, those who were precariously housed may be pushed over the edge into absolute homelessness.” It is important to continue to shed light on a phenomenon that has, against the best efforts of many, remained hidden.
According to Scott Travis, Director of Research and Programs at ARDN, the coordinated homelessness count is timely. He says, “the severe lack of data on homelessness in rural areas across Canada presents a challenge… when (advocating) for much-needed funding.”
The data is also important in helping communities coordinate and strengthen initiatives. Sharida Csillag, Community Development Officer with Stony Plain Family and Community Support Services, highlighted that the report has “been used as a credible source of information for a Regional Champions Table for Reducing Poverty and Homelessness.” The Spruce Grove Family and Community Support Services also used the survey to get its community to take notice of the issue of homelessness and poverty in the Tri-Region.
Visit https://www.ardn.ca/publications/2018-rural-homelessness-estimation-project-rhep to learn more about the Rural Homelessness Estimate Project that was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy.
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