The city will administer a count of the city’s homeless to determine how best to help Campbell River’s most vulnerable.
Council, at its Monday meeting, voted to have city staff work with the Campbell River Housing Resource Centre to conduct a detailed absolute homelessness count.
Council also agreed to spend up to $2,000 with the money to come from council’s contingency account.
The initiative came from Coun. Ron Kerr who told council that if the city intends to lobby the province for homelessness funding, the city needs to have all the facts.
“We haven’t had a count in Campbell River since probably 2008 or before that,” Kerr said. “It really does give the community something we can use in making decisions and in discussions with the ministry, BC Housing and Island Health. It gives the real, hard facts and I think it’s really important that we do that right away as winter’s coming and it will definitely give everyone a true indication of what’s happening on the streets.”
Kerr served notice at the June 22 council meeting, following a presentation from a group of the city’s homeless, that he would be asking council to support the homeless count.
The issue has been front and centre at City Hall since early June when the city’s homeless camped out on the front lawn of the municipal building to get answers as to when a proposed sobering assessment centre will come to fruition and if the annual winter shelter will be back this year.
While the sobering assessment centre is still at least a year away because the site slated for the centre isn’t yet available, the winter shelter is largely dependent on the city securing money from the province and BC Housing, combined with annual Island Health funding.
Coun. Colleen Evans said Kerr’s proposed homeless count will help the city in its efforts to lobby for money.
“If we have that information it’s going to allow us to move forward with other funding opportunities,” Evans said. “Definitely the homelessness situation in Campbell River is going to be critical as we move forward. I think the timeliness of this is very important.”
Coun. Michele Babchuk said the count will help council determine how it can help the most vulnerable.
“If we don’t have the baseline numbers, it’s going to be very difficult to come to some sort of conclusion on what exactly we need in this community,” Babchuk said. “It’s something that I, as a new councillor, that I don’t totally have my head wrapped around, exactly the amount of people that are out there, the demographics of the people, or what resources we already have in the community.”
Kerr’s intention is to model the count on a survey done annually by the City of Vancouver which outlines the number of homeless, how many are using the city’s shelters, their incomes, their health, as well as the age, ethnicity, and gender of the average homeless person.
Coun. Larry Samson wondered how city staff would compile such data.
“Our staff is not trained in going out into Nunns Creek Park and the ERT Road and different areas like this and trying to do detailed homeless counts, so how does he see our staff’s role and what department would take the lead on this?” Samson asked Kerr.
Kerr said he would look for advice from staff on how best to conduct the count and suggested staff from the Housing Resource Centre do the actual count.
Coun. Charlie Cornfield agreed.
“I would think that staff would be the ones administering the funding, not necessarily doing the counting. The Campbell River Housing Resource Service would be the ones conducting it and they would need someone to liaise with from the city,” Cornfield said.
“I would not want to see our bylaw enforcement people out there doing the counts. There’s also couch surfers who fit into the homelessness definition. There’s other things besides just who lives in the bush, so to me, I think we should be leaving it up to the Housing Resource to do the count.”