A recent homeless count reveals there are at least 52 unsheltered homeless living on Campbell River streets.
And of the 52 who were surveyed, 52 per cent are Aboriginal, which is up from 40 per cent in 2009 when the last homeless count was done.
On average, a homeless person in Campbell River is male, 45-years-old, Aboriginal, and is afflicted with an addiction, mental health issue or physical disability.
A total of 40 per cent of survey respondents reported having a mental illness while 63.5 per cent said they have an addiction or engage in substance abuse. A further 44 per cent reported having a physical disability and 60 per cent said they have a medical condition.
Those statistics were developed over a 51-hour period between Sept. 12 to 14 by Patricia Orr and Raymond Allan, hired by the city to conduct the homeless count through interviews and a paper survey.
The two-page survey contained 17 questions and was broken down into two sections – one pertaining to the unsheltered homeless and one for those who are homeless but stay in shelters.
Of the 33 survey respondents who are currently sheltered, 45 per cent said they stay at the Salvation Army Evergreen Shelter while 30 per cent reported staying at the Second Chance Recovery House. A total of 55 per cent (18 people) of those who identify as ‘sheltered’ said they had not stayed outside in the last 12 months while 45 per cent (15 people) said they had slept on the streets at one point in the past year.
Among the unsheltered respondents, all 52 said they had stayed outside in the last year. Eighty-five per cent (44 people) said they spent the previous night outside or in a vehicle while just 15 per cent said they stayed at a friend’s place.
Those surveyed involved the homeless who frequent such places as the Myrt Thompson Trail, Nunn’s Creek Park, beach areas from central downtown to Willow Point, ERT trail and forested areas within central downtown Campbell River.
The homeless count was ordered by city council in July as a way to determine how best to help the city’s most vulnerable.
The initiative was brought forward by Coun. Ron Kerr who said that knowing just how far the city’s homeless problem really extends is the only way to secure funding from senior levels of government to try and alleviate the problem.
“It really does give the community something we can use in making decisions and in discussions with the ministry, BC Housing and Island Health,” Kerr said in July. “It gives the real, hard facts…it will definitely give everyone a true indication of what’s happening on the streets.”
At last week’s Monday council meeting, council voted to include $2,000 in its 2017 budget planning deliberations in order to continue on with the homeless count.
“Municipalities that conduct homeless counts recognize the value of conducting them every two years,” said Kerr, adding that the results “will provide a baseline information that can be used to assess needs, identify service delivery improvements and support funding requests.”
Unsheltered survey results
63 per cent are male; 37 per cent female.
52 per cent are Aboriginal; 48 per cent non-Aboriginal.
56 per cent of the homeless stayed in a shelter in the last 12 months.
41 per cent stated they had no income.
26 per cent have income coming from disability.
23 per cent are on welfare or income assistance.