Count suggests homelessness up in Waterloo region since 2014

The data is still being compiled, but early indications from this week's homeless count show more people may be living on the streets in Waterloo region compared to the last time a count was done in December 2014.

Data still being compiled, but numbers expected to be higher than previous count

A homeless count was conducted Monday in Waterloo region, with 93 volunteers talking to people about living on the streets. (Craig Ruttle/The Associated Press)

Although a full report is not due until May 4, the data being compiled from this week's homeless count already suggests the number of homeless people on Waterloo region streets has grown. 

"We think it might be larger than it was the last time we did this count," said Deb Schlichter, director of housing for the Region of Waterloo. The December 2014 count found there were 295 homeless people on the streets of the region.

On Monday, 93 volunteers fanned out to talk to people in emergency shelters. In the evening, they also visited locations where homeless people are known to congregate.

When it comes to who is homeless, Schlichter says they are often a victim of circumstance. Some may have family or friends who can take them in if needed, but others don't have that support.

"Often we think this is a group that's so different than us. They're not really that different," she said.
A man sleeps on King Street in downtown Kitchener. The region has conducted a homeless count to understand just how many people are living on the streets and what services they use or need. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

More surveys this year

Starting this year, performing a homeless count is mandatory. But although the province requires it, funding for this year's count in Waterloo region came from the federal government, which also wants communities to look at the issue of homelessness.

"This need assessment that we're doing now will help us be ready for when resources come that we can actually put them right to use," Schlichter said.

The one-day snapshot of urban homelessness isn't the only survey the region is conducting. Schlichter said volunteers will now do a count in the townships, which will take several more days.