Survey identified 151 homeless cases
Dozens of volunteers fanned out across Norfolk and Haldimand in May to get a handle on the number of homeless people in the two counties. Presenting survey results at a debriefing in Jarvis Wednesday were Tricia Givens, left, housing services program manager in Haldimand and Norfolk, and Louise Lovell, the counties’ housing resource co-ordinator. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER
Poor health, disability, substance abuse, drug addiction and mental health problems are risk factors for homelessness.
Those were the findings of a survey taken across Norfolk and Haldimand during the week of May 7.
Eighty-four volunteers fanned out across the counties during that week. They identified 151 individuals who were experiencing some degree of precarious housing.
This ranges from sleeping on the street, in parks, in vehicles or abandoned buildings to living in emergency shelters or temporarily in someone else’s home. The latter is sometimes referred to as “couch surfing.”
The survey results were shared Wednesday during a debriefing at the Jarvis Community Centre.
The Ministry of Housing has asked social service agencies to gather data on homelessness across Ontario. The ministry’s goal is to end chronic homelessness by 2025.
“For those of us who work in housing, we’ve always known there was homelessness in our community,” says Tricia Givens. “We now have a better idea of the extent of the problem. Our end goal is affordable, safe, clean housing for all.”
The local survey team identified likely locations for distressed individuals in partnership with addiction clinics, police, detox centres, mental health facilities, charitable groups and social service agencies.
Key findings are as follows:
• 66 per cent of respondents were aged 25 to 49.
• 20 per cent of respondents were aged 50 or older and 24 or younger.
• 15 per cent of respondents were aboriginal.
• 82 per cent identified as white.
• Half the survey subjects were male while half were female.
• 50 per cent of respondents had their first experience with homelessness before the age of 24.
• 33 per cent reported a history of foster care or the child welfare system.
• 75 per cent of respondents have been homeless once or twice over the past year.
• 33 per cent reported their bout of homelessness was at least six months to a year in duration.
• 33 per cent of respondents had used an emergency shelter in the past year.
• 25 per cent of respondents had used emergency shelter the night before they were surveyed.
• 33 per cent were staying with a friend or family.
• 33 per cent cited addiction or substance abuse as a reason for their homelessness.
• 33 per cent cited relationship breakdown or inability to pay rent as the reason for their homelessness.
• 50 per cent of respondents had no income or were receiving monthly social assistance payments.
• 33 per cent were drawing income related to disability payments.
• 75 per cent said mental health problems were a barrier to turning their situation around.
• More than half reported that addiction was a problem in their life.
• 80 per cent said they were dealing with a health, disability or chronic or acute health issues.
The next step is an in-depth analysis of the survey results. A report to Norfolk council and the Ministry of Housing will follow this fall.
Numerous social service agencies and charitable groups attended Wednesday’s presentation. All have taken an interest in people living on the margins and are looking for ways to improve their situation.
“The prevalence of homelessness in our community is a surprise,” says Virginia Lucas of Waterford, a spokesperson for Church Out Serving. “You know there is homelessness in our community, but the scope of it is one of the takeaways today.
“The mental illness, the physical disabilities, the addictions – homelessness is a real challenge for some people. I’m impressed by the scope of community interest to see what we can do collaboratively to address this issue. We have a strong community in that regard.”