Concern over homeless count

Big cities have opted out of latest federal strategy

Parksville joins the growing list of Canadian cities voicing concern over the country’s first federally-run homeless count, which is supposed to generate meaningful results providing a step forward in tackling poverty.

However, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and many others have opted out of what is called a “point-in-time count,” where the number of homeless people are recorded over a 24-hour period using a co-ordinated method. Critics say this alone may paint an incomplete picture of the national poverty problem.

Nanaimo, Victoria and Prince George are among the 30 cities that have jumped onboard.

“There are a lot more than 30 cities in Canada,” Society of Organized Services (SOS) homeless coordinator Sarah Poole told

The NEWS. “Information is always important but you have to look at it in context.”

Poole, co-chair of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness, said she will take the idea to the task force at their next meeting slated for Feb. 2. It is unclear at this point if Parksville will participate. Poole said there have already been two point in time counts in Parksville historically — one in 2011 and one in 2013.

Poole said point-in-time counts are both expensive and time consuming, adding if the federal government wasn’t conducting a nationwide count the local task force wouldn’t even consider conducting one this year.

While she maintains “the more data the better,” Poole pointed out that when you record the number of homeless people over 24 hours your data is reliant on people willing to be interviewed that day.

She added: “To set up a point-in-time count over one day you’re missing a large population of homeless people who live in rural areas.”

According to Employment and Social Development Canada, the results from the count will build a better understanding of homelessness across Canadian communities. “This information can be used by communities to direct resources to areas of greatest need, and to connect individuals with specific backgrounds to targeted supports to help them achieve stable housing,” explains the Government of Canada website. The count takes place over one day Jan. 1 to April 30.