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Youth account for nearly ⅓ of Yellowknife's homeless population, according to latest count

Nearly one-third of people experiencing homelessness in Yellowknife are children, according to a point-in-time count presented to city council on Monday.

Count done in April found 104 children without stable housing

Bree Denning, executive director of the Yellowknife Women's Society, says the number of people experiencing homelessness might be higher than what the count reports. (Katie Toth/CBC)

Nearly one-third of people experiencing homelessness in Yellowknife are children, according to a point-in-time count presented to city council on Monday.

Over April 22 and 23, 338 people were found to be without "stable, permanent and appropriate housing."

Among those counted were 104 youth under age 18.

The count, which was paid for by the federal government, is meant to provide a snapshot of homelessness in Yellowknife. It will be used to help paint a more complete picture of homelessness in Canada.

Number may be higher

Bree Denning, executive director of the Yellowknife Women's Society, said the number of people experiencing homelessness is even higher than the point-in-time count reports.

There are people who didn't want to fill out the survey, she said, and others who are precariously housed, but wouldn't consider themselves homeless.

Denning said the count does indicate a "huge lack" of affordable housing for people and families in Yellowknife.

"We're not going to see the problem of homelessness be addressed until we make some real and major community investment in building housing that people are able to afford," she said.

I think [it's] a problem that's only going to continue and possibly get worse.- Bree Denning, executive director of Yellowknife Women's Society

"With Rockhill tragically burning down, I think that's a problem that's only going to continue and possibly get worse."

On Oct. 2, a fire razed Rockhill Apartments, a building that housed the YWCA NWT and transitional housing for families. As a result of the blaze, 33 families lost their homes.

A report on the point-in-time count found that Indigenous people were significantly over-represented.

It said 90 per cent of people counted identified as Indigenous.

According to the report, Indigenous people account for 23 per cent of Yellowknife's population.

Most of the people surveyed were not from Yellowknife. Sixteen per cent said they had always lived in the city. Close to 70 per cent of those counted came from other communities in the Northwest Territories.

The top reasons given for moving to the city were to connect with family and find employment.

A point-in-time count done in 2015 measured a much lower number of people experiencing homelessness: 139, compared with this year's 338.

Increase due to change in counting method

The report says the increase is partly due to a change in the methodology for counting — the new methodology better accounts for dependents and children.

In 2017, Yellowknife city council set out to end homelessness in the city in 10 years.

The point-in-time count report says there are "key knowledge gaps" affecting the city's ability to combat homelessness.

It says point-in-time counts can be used to track demographic changes. and what services are needed. The plan is to conduct a new point-in-time count every two years.

Homelessness in Yellowknife is on the rise, said Denning.

"The city is trying its best," she said. "But it needs a lot of partnerships from the territorial, and mostly the federal level in terms of putting the money in place to actually make a change."

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