Councillor wants city to get a proper handle on the extent of homelessness

The city needs to have its facts straight, councillor says

Coun. Ron Kerr wants the city to conduct a count of Campbell River’s homeless.

Kerr served notice at Monday’s council meeting that he will bring forward a motion at the July 6 council meeting directing city staff to undertake the survey.

The motion will read: “That staff in cooperation with the C.R. Housing Resource Service conduct a detailed absolute homeless count in Campbell River (with) funding to come from Council Contingency and not to exceed $2,000.”

Kerr said if council wants to lobby the province for funding to accommodate the homeless, whether it be through the extreme weather winter shelter or a new proposed sobering assessment centre, the city needs to have its facts straight.

“We talk about homelessness but we don’t know what we’re looking at,” Kerr said. “Everybody’s got a different idea of what we’re talking about.

“So what this would do and what Vancouver’s done very successfully is use it as a baseline and they’re able to use the numbers to set goals and also review it annually to know if the money they’re investing is actually working or not.”

Kerr provided council with a sample of Vancouver’s most recent homelessness count, conducted in 2014, which revealed that the number of homeless increased in 2014, with the number of unsheltered homeless rising and the number of sheltered homeless dropping.

The report also describes the average homeless person in Vancouver as 35-54 years old, male, of aboriginal descent, on income assistance, and living with addiction issues.

The report also breaks down the homeless by their age, gender, ethnicity, income and their health.

Kerr said a similar report would be beneficial to helping city council understand what Campbell River is dealing with.

“I think it’s very important moving ahead, if we’re going to have discussions with different agencies, with senior levels of government, that we actually have the numbers we’re talking about,” Kerr said.

“There was a count done of sorts in the 2009 Homelessness Task Force report but that was six years ago.

What I am shooting for is the absolute homeless, the on the ground people who are on the street.”