Point-in-time count of homelessness happening in Waterloo region

The Region of Waterloo will conduct a sampling survey of homelessness on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week to get a point-in-time view of the problem.

Count will take place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week

Volunteers shown taking part in a "point-in-time" survey of homelessness done in Hamilton. The Region of Waterloo will conduct a similar point-in-time count this week. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The Region of Waterloo will conduct a point-in-time count of homelessness on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. 

Regional staff will work with community agencies to connect with people experiencing homelessness, and to ask them what led them to their current situation and what kind of help they need, said Pat Fisher.

"This information is really helpful, to know how many people are experiencing homelessness ... and also to better understand the issues and challenges people are facing," said Fisher, who is a program analyst with the region. 

Between November and May this year, Waterloo region noted a 34 per cent increase in the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness. 

Chronic homelessness on the rise

Someone who is chronically homeless has been without a residence for six months or more in the last year, or for 1½ years in the last three. 

As of June, the region was aware of 365 people who were in this situation, though the region's manager of homelessness prevention explained not everyone who is homeless is in touch with regional services, so the region isn't necessarily aware of all who may be in need.

The point-in-time count is expected to provide a more comprehensive number, because organizations that are unaffiliated with the regional government, such as rural community resource centres, are also taking part. 

More and more people in rural parts of the region are struggling with homelessness, said Trisha Robinson, though the problem can be harder to see. People may be couch-surfing, sleeping in their cars or tenting on a farmer's property, but trying at all costs to stay hidden. 

"Just because you don't see people on the street or camped out anywhere, it doesn't mean [homelessness] is not here," said Robinson, executive director of the Wilmot Family Resource Centre. 

"People are just hiding it better."

The point-in-time homeless count must be completed this year, as per a March directive from the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. 

The results will be presented to regional council later this fall.