Kitchener-Waterloo

Fewer families, more singles homeless in Guelph, Wellington: study

A social services group in the Guelph area surveyed homeless people in the region to better understand the issue of homelessness and what can be done to eliminate it.

Number surveyed in Guelph, Wellington County down from 2015, co-ordinator says

A team of volunteers connected with 257 homeless people in Guelph and Wellington County this year, says Ryan Pettipiere, director of housing in Wellington County. (CBC)

A social services group in the Guelph area has again surveyed homeless people in the region to get a better understand ing of issues around people living on the streets. 

Ryan Pettipiere is the director of housing in Wellington County and co-chair of the 20,000 Homes Campaign, which is a national movement attempting to permanently house 20,000 homeless people by July 2018. 

He was one of 125 volunteers with the Guelph and Wellington task force for poverty elimination who went outside for three days to speak with homeless people about what issues they are facing. 

Pettipiere told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition about a few places he and his group visited to reach homeless people to get a sense of their needs. 

We have very few people that are sleeping rough or outside.- Ryan  Pettipiere , Wellington County housing director

"Places like drop-in centres, emergency shelters, community health centres and other public places that people that are facing homelessness might frequent," he said. 

"We're completing health and wellness surveys," Pettipiere explained, adding his team is trying to figure out the basics from simple demographics to causes and challenges. 

"We heard many things," he said, noting crews are still going over the data collected. "We were able to connect with 257 unique individuals."

Finding shelter

Last year, 360 people were counted, according to numbers provided by Randalin Ellery, a co-ordinator with the Guelph-Wellington task force for poverty elimination. This means numbers are down, but there is a chance some people were counted more than once last year. 

Pettipiere explained that based on his information, most people his team spoke to are finding somewhere to sleep at night at places such as emergency shelters. 

"We have very few people that are sleeping rough or outside," he said, adding most homeless people in the area are between the ages of 25 and 49.

​Ellery told CBC News that it's more single men on the streets in the area these days and not very many families. She said it's often people in rural areas without options that make their way to Guelph.

"We know that what homelessness looks like in our rural communities is much different," Pettipiere explained. "People in smaller communities are faced with different challenges."

He said the stigma can be much harsher for homeless people in somewhere such as Guelph versus downtown Toronto, where there are far more people on the streets. 

"Services [are] much more challenging," Pettipiere added.

"Folks that are facing homeless in the rural areas are much more likely to stay put where they are and try to make due in the circumstances rather than travel to another city."

Family issues

Mental health and addiction issues were reported, according to Pettipiere. Highly addictive drugs such as crystal methamphetamine can wreak havoc for those who find themselves abusing it. 

However, there was one issue that Pettipiere said his team of volunteers was surprised to hear so much about: family conflict.

"Conflict with a spouse, conflict with a parent," he explained. These issues can quickly spiral into homelessness for many, Pettipiere said.

The Guelph-Wellington task force for poverty elimination is hoping to house 30 of the most vulnerable people in the area within the next six weeks. 

In June 2013, CBC News reported that 30,000 Canadians are homeless each night and at least 200,000 have experienced homelesssness in any given year.

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