Half of homeless on Calgary streets have jobs

In a recent survey of people sleeping in Calgary's parks, streets and vacant lots, more than half of those who responded said they had employment.

In a recent survey of people sleeping in Calgary's parks, streets and vacant lots, more than half of those who responded said they had employment.

A collective of the city's agencies that help the homeless conducted a one-night count in the downtown core and the Beltline area and released a report on their findings Tuesday.

A total of 338 people were identified as sleeping outside on May 14. Of those, more than 55 per cent said they were employed in some way.

The report says the number of people living on the streets is probably closer to 1,000, and the count may have been low because of the time of night the survey was taken and because the homeless are choosing less-visible places to sleep to avoid being ticketed by the city.

Mandy Loates, one of the 117 volunteer counters, said she was surprised to find that 17 per cent of the people counted were women. 

"They were mentioning that people want to stay as couples, that people want to stay with their support groups," she said. "In terms of the shelter services that we have for people it obviously indicates that we are missing something."

Loates said she even discovered a pregnant woman sleeping in a park that night, which she found disturbing.

Homeless sleeping in the suburbs

While all the homeless surveyed were sleeping outdoors, 38 per cent said they did use shelters sometimes. They all said sleeping outside was a choice and gave varying reasons, from pets not being allowed in shelters to wanting "to party."

Regardless, those interviewed said they were afraid of being attacked while sleeping outside or being roughed up by police or security guards.

"Anecdotal information from the report finds that outdoor sleeping locations are migrating from the downtown core to inner city residential communities and beyond," according to a press release. "Many respondents indicated they prefer to be 'invisible,' sleeping in smaller groups and moving to more residential areas where it is less likely they will be found and fined."

A survey released in July of people staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing or receiving services found that 4,060 people were homeless, an increase of 18 per cent over 2006.