Kelowna’s second Point-in-Time (PiT) Count, which offers a snapshot of the city’s current homeless population, was completed on March 6th, 2018 and the findings were recently released.
The study used the same methodology as Kelowna’s first PiT Count, which took place in 2016. This is the first time that two subsequent homelessness reports have been completed in Kelowna, offering incredible insights into not only the current state of the homeless population, but how it has changed over the past two years.
This year’s findings show an overall increase in homelessness.
To be precise, it was found that at least 286 of Kelowna’s residents were ‘absolutely homeless’ - that is, sleeping in shelters or on the street - at the time of the study. This is a 23% increase from 2016.
Of this number, 234 were staying in homeless shelters, and 52 were unsheltered. The majority were men (64%), and between the age of 25 to 64 years old (85%). 26% identified as Aboriginal or had Indigenous ancestry.
When asked about the greatest challenge in finding housing, the most common response was that the cost of rent is too high (24%), followed by a low income (21%), discrimination (10%) and addiction (8%).
An additional 264 people were found to be residing in interim housing, and 55 in institutional care.
These numbers are quite shocking, and it’s important to remember that this is just the bare minimum. Not only could there have been more absolutely homeless people who were not found on the night of the study, as well as those who cycle in and out of homelessness who were not on the streets at that time, but it’s impossible to fully account for hidden homelessness.
'Hidden homeless' are those who are not sleeping in shelters or on the streets, but whose current living situation is not sustainable in the long term - usually, temporarily staying with friends and family or ‘couch-surfing’.
Compared to 2016, the number of unsheltered homeless decreased by 11%, but the number of people in emergency shelters increased by 43%. Another alarming statistic is that 34% of women experiencing sheltered or unsheltered homelessness also identified as Indigenous, which is a decrease from the 42% that was reported in 2016, but still much higher than the percentage of Indigenous women in the general Kelowna population (5.6%).
The PiT Count takes place in 61 communities across Canada, and is the result of a combination of efforts from The Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy and local organizations, such as the Central Okanagan Foundation.
“Once again this year, I would like to thank the Central Okanagan Foundation, in the role of the Community Entity, for carrying out the Kelowna Point-in-Time (PiT) Count, a national coordinated effort led by The Government of Canada to measure homelessness in Canada,” said Stephen Fuhr, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country. “Understanding the factors that result in homelessness will help us focus on prevention efforts and find permanent, supportive solutions for people experiencing homelessness in our community,”
The data is carefully collected by a group of dedicated coordinators and volunteers. More information regarding the process can be found in the report.
“Central Okanagan Foundation wants to say a very appreciative thank-you to the agency staff and 118 volunteers that participated in the coordinated Point-in-Time Count,” said Cheryl Miller, Director of Grants and Community Initiatives at Central Okanagan Foundation. “The information gathered on demographics and service needs is essential to evaluate progress in reducing homelessness.”
These counts are offering a never-before-seen view into Kelowna’s homeless population. Even if some of the results aren’t surprising based on plain observation, having all of the facts in one carefully curated report offers us a deeper understanding of what is happening in our city, and will hopefully assist in finding future solutions.
For example, these findings will be used to assist in Journey Home, Kelowna's long-term strategy to address homelessness with a goal to eliminate episodic and chronic homelessness by 2024. The hope is that future PiT Counts will be instrumental in measuring the efforts of this commitment.
These are just a handful of findings from the report. We encourage you to download and view the entire findings here, and share your thoughts with us.
Community Foundations are charitable organizations dedicated to improving communities in specific geographical areas. Central Okanagan Foundation does this by pooling the charitable gifts of donors to create endowment funds and using the investment income to make grants.
The Central Okanagan Foundation supports registered charities within the Central Okanagan Region. This encompasses the District of Lake Country, City of Kelowna, City of West Kelowna, and District of Peachland.
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