New Brunswick

Homeless census will 'shed some light' on problems

Volunteers in New Brunswick's major centres will conduct a one-day census of the province's homeless this winter, part of a cross-country effort to capture a single day snapshot of the population and its issues.

Volunteers will survey people in shelters, transition houses and in-the-rough

Volunteers will conduct the survey with homeless people in Saint John, Fredericton, and Moncton (CBC)

Volunteers will fan out in New Brunswick's major centres this winter to conduct a one-day census of the province's homeless.

It's part of a cross-country effort to capture a single day snapshot of the population and its issues.

Greg Bishop is co-ordinating the survey in Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton.

"The tally of those responses could either reaffirm or shed some light on how homelessness comes to be," said Bishop, who is with the Human Development Council.

Greg Bishop will co-ordinate the homelessness survey in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John. (CBC)

"It will also allow us to raise some awareness and get a better understanding of the homeless population and their needs."

Bishop says volunteers will seek out both the homeless who are living "in the rough" and those who are in shelters, transition houses, and other temporary quarters.

Names not being collected

Once located they will be asked a series of 12 questions aimed at determining — among other things — the individual's age, medical needs and source of income. The person's name will not be required.

Bishop said he is pleased the survey will use the same questions and methodology across the country

Raise some awareness and get a better understanding of the homeless population and their needs.- Greg Bishop, survey coordinator

He says some groups working with the homeless have questioned the wisdom of conducting the survey during the coldest part of the winter, but the vast majority of organizations across the country have signed on.

The Halifax experience may prove useful. People working with the homeless in the Halifax Regional Municipality had already planned a survey for earlier this year.

On learning of the federal initiative, they elected to use the same national questions and methodology in the May 12 survey.

Claudia Jahn, the co-ordinator of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, said her group would also now participate in the winter survey and do the comparisons.

"It will be really interesting to analyze the data," said Jahn.

Data will help in the future

On the Employment and Social Development Canada website a statement says the information gathered in the point-in-time count, "...can be used by communities to direct resources to areas of greatest need, and to connect individuals with specific backgrounds to targeted supports to help them achieve stable housing."

In subsequent years, the statement goes on to say, new surveys can "..track changes in the homeless population over time and measure progress in reducing it."

Phyllis Beckingham, the Romero House soup kitchen's manager, said she welcomes the homelessness census. (CBC)

At Saint John's Romero House, Phyllis Beckingham, the soup kitchen's manager, said she welcomes the initiative.

She knows of five individuals who live year-round in the rough.

"They don't like the rules," says Beckingham.

"That's their style, they choose that. We try to give them sleeping bags, give them a new change of clothes, they always got hats and mitts. We give them a sandwich to take on the road too, if they need that."

Saint John is also home to separate shelters for men and women.

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