300 volunteers needed for 1st face-to-face Winnipeg homelessness street census since pre-pandemic
Typically annual, snapshot event was interrupted by COVID-19; takes place May 25 this year
An annual effort to tally the number of people living on the streets of Winnipeg is back after something of a hiatus during the pandemic — and the initiative is looking for volunteers.
The street census organizers are looking for 300 people to participate in the "point in time count" of people on the streets on May 25. The deadline to apply is Thursday.
Though the census should be happening every two to three years, this year will be the first comprehensive one done in four years due to complications from the pandemic, said Kristiana Clemens.
"The information that we do gather gives us critical information on what is happening with homelessness in our city, the demographics that are impacted and the experiences and pathways that led people into their experience of homelessness," said Clemens, manager of communications and community relations for End Homelessness Winnipeg.
End Homelessness released an interim street census report last year, though it did not involve the usual, more robust number of face-to-face interactions.
Before the census on May 25 this year, volunteers will take a short training on surveying, interview methods, cultural and personal safety, and confidentiality and consent, so they are prepared to go out in teams of three and interact with people who may be experiencing varying degrees of homelessness.
Survey routes will be through the core areas in Winnipeg's downtown and surrounding areas, while mobile outreach teams will be working further out from the core, said Clemens.
The types of questions volunteers may ask have to do with how long someone has been homeless, their age, gender, race and how the pandemic has impacted them.
Data that is collected is anonymized so no personal information is recorded, said Clemens.
The snapshot not only helps people working with the homeless and precariously housed better address their needs, but Clemens says the data also contributes to the changing national picture of homelessness. Communities across Canada do their own versions of the 24-hour count.
"We need to understand what's happening if we're going to advance sustainable solutions and changes to policies to help prevent and end homelessness," Clemens told Up to Speed guest host Marjorie Dowhos on Wednesday.
"It's really important that we revisit this process, that we reconnect with the community now to understand what the situation is on the ground."
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