Kitchener-Waterloo

Waterloo Region opts out of national homelessness census

Waterloo Region will not be part of a national snapshot of homelessness after regional staff declined to participate in a federally run count of people who are living in shelters or on the street.

The 24-hour count was originally scheduled to take place in January

Waterloo Region among municipalities not participating in national homeless count. (CBC)

Waterloo Region will not be part of a national snapshot of homelessness after regional staff declined to participate in a federally run count of people who are living in shelters or on the street.

The 24-hour count, known as a point-in-time count, was originally scheduled to take place in January, but participating municipalities now have until April to complete it.

"We think it's great that they are doing a coordinated count and data collection across Canada," said Marie Morrison, the region's manager of housing services, but "we just did a local count...last December."

She said the region was the first municipality in Canada to count its homeless population as part of the 20,000 Homes Campaign, which describes itself as "a national movement of communities working together to permanently house 20,000 of Canada's most vulnerable homeless people" on its website.

"What we are doing right now is actually continuing to collect data on an ongoing basis," Morrison said. "So, essentially, we will have a point-in-time count on any given day."

Because the region is keeping track of its homeless population on a day-to-day basis, they decided not to participate in the national homeless count. However, Morrison said the region may participate in future national counts.

Other municipalities opt out

Other Canadian municipalities have also opted out of the national count, including Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. 

Cities like Toronto and Vancouver have their own counts planned for the future. 

"For us, it's about comparative data," said Celine Malboules, senior planner in Vancouver's housing policy and projects department. "If we all of a sudden switch the date to January that's going to have an impact." 

Although they won't be participating in the national count, Malboules said city officials are going to see if they can piggyback on the federal project and "feed into the national results."

Concern over data quality

Other municipalities, including those in Alberta, have opted out of the national count over concerns about the quality of the data. 

A point-in-time count is only a snapshot of people who are living in shelters or on the street, and does not account for anyone who has either found temporary lodging, or is spending half their income or more on housing.

During a meeting with the previous Conservative government, municipalities also voiced concerns about the plan to do the count in late January, when there are typically less people living on the streets. 

Canadian Press

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