The results of a count of Whitehorse’s homeless population released on Aug. 24 suggest at least 151 people did not have stable housing as of this spring.
At a community barbecue at Shipyards Park, Reaching Home’s community advisory board and the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition shared the result of the point in time homeless count. The count was conducted on April 13 and 14.
“This count is a snapshot of homelessness in our community. And it’s intended to understand the challenges facing homeless individuals and their families in our community in our city. Homelessness is a persistent injustice. And addressing the root causes of homelessness is very important. It’s more complex than just building affordable housing,” said Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition co-chair Helen Slama.
She called on those present to consider what was learned from the count and what they can do about it.
Kate Mechan, the chair of the community advisory board, said it is important to acknowledge the community members who shared their stories in April, making the count possible. She shared the results with the people present at the Aug. 24 barbecue.
Mechan noted the over-representation of Indigenous people among those counted. They amounted to 85 per cent of the people surveyed. She said there is lots of work to do in bringing Indigenous leadership into work against homelessness and that the advisory board is already working on leveraging the strengths that Indigenous people and governments bring to the community.
The point in time count’s findings made the distinction between people who were provisionally accommodated and those who were entirely homeless. Of the 151 people counted, 108 were staying in temporary accommodations like a hotel or motel, someone else’s home, transitional housing or in public systems like the Whitehorse Correctional Centre or the hospital. Of the remaining 43, counted as absolutely homeless, 38 were staying in an emergency shelter and five were sleeping in a tent, car or other unsheltered place.
The results of the point in time count show that homelessness is a chronic issue is Whitehorse; 52 per cent of those counted had spent the past 12 months homeless and 64 per cent reported being homeless for at least one year of the last three.
Mechan and her collaborators found that affordability was a core challenge keeping people from stable housing. She said people also reported being discriminated against based on their backgrounds, health issues or housing history, making the search for stable housing even more difficult.
“We need housing stock, we need more supportive housing, and we need investments and people to address it with urgency,” Mechan said.
She said that housing stock is the first step but more services, supports and investment into the groups that provide them is also required.
A total of 24 volunteers assisted with the count that, Mechan said, began by speaking with people out on the street and then also connected them with people at service locations like the emergency shelter. The count will be used to inform the Reaching Home Community Advisory Board’s funding priorities moving forward.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org