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Homeless survey used to target services

NANAIMO – Homeless count provides clarity to what people need for Nanaimo organizations.

Nanaimo now has a better understanding of the homeless situation within its borders.

Earlier this month, the City of Nanaimo participated in the inaugural Cross-Canada Coordinated Point-in-Time Homeless Count, conducted during a 24-hour period and designed to give a clearer picture of the homeless situation in participating communities. Those who identified themselves as homeless were asked to fill out a survey consisting of 24 questions.

The survey results for Nanaimo found a total of 175 people identified as homeless. Of those, 69 per cent were male and 30 per cent were female, while one per cent were transgender.

John Horn, social planner for the City of Nanaimo and co-chairman of the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition, said the count was a success and that nothing was overly surprising about the results.

“The only thing was that 70 per cent of the folks we talked to have lived in Nanaimo for more than a year,” Horn said. “That is an interesting one because there is a sense that people come here for the warm weather.”

According to Horn, the last time a homeless count of any kind was conducted in Nanaimo was back in the fall of 2008, when 115 people were counted as being homeless.

Horn said while the numbers are up in this year’s count, there has been progress, adding that data collected from the count will give the city and non-profit organizations a much better understanding of the types of services they need to provide.

“We have moved along in the right direction but we still have a ways to go in terms of how much housing is available for those on low incomes,” Horn said.