Edmonton counts homeless population

An army of volunteers began counting Edmonton's homeless population Tuesday.

An army of volunteers began counting Edmonton's homeless population Tuesday.

More than 200 counters in brightly coloured vests and clipboards combed the river valley, city streets and social agencies trying to get a handle on how many people have no place to live.     

It's the ninth count of homeless people in Edmonton since 1999.

"It's about giving us the best info that we need to in order to do our work," said Susan Magee, director of Homeward Trust, the agency the city tasked with ending homelessness in Edmonton by 2019. "But the work that we're doing is making a difference."

The census is being carried out Tuesday from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. in neighborhoods known to have homeless populations: Alberta Avenue, Fort Road, Callingwood, West Jasper Place, McCauley, downtown and the river valley.

Workers at bottle depots, food banks, hospitals, the downtown library, transit stations, group homes, motels and shelters are also helping out.

The number of homeless in Edmonton has been steadily growing, even as the city stands by its pledge to eliminate the problem.

Since the campaign to end homelessness, called Housing First, began in April 2009, more than 900 people have been housed.

Magee said 85 per cent of those people are still in their homes.

"Of them, over 40 per cent were chronically homeless so that is certainly making a difference," she said.

"They're receiving supports, and they're doing really well."

The results of Tuesday's count will be announced in early November.

The last homeless count in 2008 found 3,079 people without a home in Edmonton.