11 Quebec communities to participate in national homelessness survey

The survey, to be conducted this month, is an effort to gather up-to-date numbers on the homeless population and its demographics.

Organizers hoping to recruit 1,200 volunteers in Montreal to help gather data

The 2018 homelessness count is covering a much larger territory than the first 2015 edition. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

Eleven communities across Quebec will be participating in a homelessness survey this month, in an effort to gather up-to-date numbers on the homeless population and its demographics.

The project is part of a Canada-wide initiative called Everyone Counts 2018, in which 61 communities will count the number of homeless people who live there.

The Montreal survey, called I Count MTL 2018, will cover a larger territory than the first one, conducted in 2015.

Participating Quebec communities include:

  • Gatineau.
  • Montérégie (Longueuil, Sorel, Saint-Hyacinthe, Valleyfield).
  • Sherbrooke.
  • Laval.
  • Lanaudière (Terrebonne, Repentigny, Joliette).
  • Saint-Jérôme.
  • Drummondville.
  • Trois-Rivières.
  • Québec.
  • Chaudière-Appalaches (Lévis, Thetford Mines).
  • Saguenay.

Organizers in Montreal are hoping to recruit 1,200 volunteers to canvas streets, parks and parts of the underground city.

During Montreal's first homelessness survey, conducted over several days in March 2015, a total of 3,016 homeless people in the city were counted, 76 per cent of whom were men.

The 2015 count did not account for the "hidden homeless," people living in rooming houses, staying with others, in hotels or motels, or couch surfing with no fixed addresses.

Addressing the problem

The city has mandated that the count be overseen by the Douglas Hospital Research Centre team, led by Eric Latimer, a McGill University professor and researcher who worked on the 2015 survey.

He told CBC's Homerun that information gathered last time helped policymakers know where to divert funding in order to help those most in need.

"They found a relatively large number of people who were sleeping outside and that those people were not using shelters, but were using day centres," he said. "

This led the city to target more resources at day centres.... So that's a concrete result."

Latimer said that by creating a clear picture of what the province's homeless population looks like and what services they need, it gives a better idea of how to address the issue.

He cited the example of Medicine Hat, Alta., where they famously eliminated homelessness several years ago, saying that data-gathering was an important part of the effort.

"They could tell they were making progress via a count," he explained.

With files from CBC's Homerun