Nova Scotia

Homeless survey finds 137 people in Sydney area without a place to live

The results of a survey on homelessness in Cape Breton Regional Municipality are very disturbing, regional council heard Tuesday. This spring, 137 people in area had no home to call their own.

At least 24 sleeping outside or in places 'not fit for human habitation'

Five men were sent out of Sydney's homeless shelter after a storm left it with no emergency service. (CBC)

A survey of homelessness done this spring in Cape Breton Regional Municipality found 137 people without permanent residences including some who were living in places "not fit for human habitation."

Those numbers, presented to regional council Tuesday, are shocking, says Fred Deveaux, executive director of the Cape Breton Community Housing Association.

"Twenty-four of those individuals were sleeping outside or in a place not fit for human habitation," he told council.

"There were another 30 in shelters, 17 were in non-permanent transitional housing, 36 were in transitional facilities such as Elizabeth Fry or Howard House and there were 30 couch-surfing on that day, so they were staying with friends or family."

Very serious problem

The survey results point to a very serious problem in the CBRM, Deveaux said.

"We thought that the numbers of individuals who were actually sleeping outside would be lower because it's not a problem that we can see in CBRM, people sleeping in the streets," he said. "But it's occurring."

"We're working diligently to make sure they don't remain homeless for long," Fred Deveaux of the Cape Breton Community Housing Association. (George Mortimer/CBC)

The survey was done by volunteers in April.

"Nineteen percent of individuals we saw that day were youth under the ages of 24. Another 24 percent were over the age of 55. We saw more women who were homeless on that day than men and there was an over-representation of First Nation's people as well," Deveaux said.

'CBRM is fully prepared to co-operate' 

He urged regional council to help the group create a housing strategy.

Mayor Cecil Clarke says council is happy to partner with the group and help in any way it can.

"The CBRM is fully prepared to co-operate and help facilitate the strategy as a partner and be an advocate for the outcomes," he told Deveaux. "And if necessary, to be a conduit for receiving federal and provincial resources to distribute locally."

The housing association's survey is part of a more extensive study, Deveaux said.

More findings will be unveiled to the federal government later this summer with the development of a national housing strategy, he said.