Youth homelessness in Brandon twice the national average, count finds

The number of homeless people in Brandon is up.

Brandon's second annual Point-in-Time homelessness count found 146 people to be homeless in the Wheat City

Volunteers with the Point-in-Time homeless count focused their efforts on central Brandon on Apr. 13, 2016, the day of the count. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

The number of homeless people in Brandon is up.

Preliminary results from the second annual Point-in-Time homeless count were released Friday morning. The count, which took place Apr. 13, 2016, saw teams of volunteers fan out across Brandon with the goal of counting every homeless person in the city.

They found 146 people in Brandon to be homeless. Twenty-eight of them were unsheltered and 118 sheltered, according to the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation. That's an increase from the 117 counted in the first survey at the beginning of 2015. 

Project Coordinator Mark Anderson said in a news release Friday that while the number has increased, it could be due in part to an improved surveying process and other factors. 

"With having the first count under our belt, we had the experience to improve our methodology," he said. "As well, there was increased community awareness prior to the event and there were additional partners involved, so in short we had more organizations involved and more volunteers out on the streets conducting surveys."

He also cautioned that it's likely not every homeless person in Brandon was counted. 

"It it is much like an iceberg. We only observe what's visible," Anderson said. "Like in many other communities across Canada, what we know to be true here in Brandon is that many homeless people are hidden so the number could even be higher."

"It's a bit of a sobering result that our numbers continue to be quite high in the city," he said.

Anderson couldn't say how this year's numbers stack up to national averages, but last year's showed Brandon was on par with national statistics. 

Youth homelessness twice the national average 

The survey also concluded that for a second year in a row, youth homelessness in Brandon is above the national average. Thirty-eight per cent of the surveyed respondents were under the age of 30, nearly twice the national average for youth, according to the BNRC. 

"We find that most people in Brandon are becoming homeless at a young age," said Anderson. "First instance of homelessness is between 18 and 23. So that creates a longer journey of instability and struggle."

Anderson said the count is a starting point when it comes to identifying the needs of the community.