Homeless count underway in Saskatoon

A group of U of S researchers and volunteers are counting Saskatoon's homeless Monday.

The last count of the city's homeless happened in 2012

Homeless count volunteers Courtney Morin and Kaitlyn Proll get a briefing from Isobel Findlay before they head for the downtown library where they will survey the people they encounter. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

A group of University of Saskatchewan researchers will begin a count of Saskatoon's homeless Monday.

It's being conducted by the Community-University Institute for Social Research (CUISR) in partnership with the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership and Community Advisory Board on Saskatoon Homelessness.

"This time we hope to produce the most comprehensive, multi-faceted picture of housing and homelessness issues in Saskatoon," said Isobel Findlay, University Co-Director of CUISR. 

People and families who are homeless on the street, in shelters, inappropriate accommodations and those at risk of becoming homeless will all be counted.

The numbers will then be compared against previous counts done in 2008 and 2012.

One of the new elements in this year's count is a survey on peoples' views on housing and homelessness in Saskatoon. Also new this year is an attempt to capture the number of "couch-surfers", those people not technically living on the street but who don't have a home of their own.

"And the third thing we're doing differently is we're gathering some more demographic data, so we'll get a better picture of who's impacted and in what ways," Findlay said.

Today about 80 volunteers are fanning out across designated areas of the city: a large swath of downtown, the west side to about 36th Street, along the river valley including Broadway Ave. and 8th Street, and the shelters and transitional houses.  Each group is assigned to an area, which they walk through once. They talk to everyone they meet.

"We're asking if they know what organizations in Saskatoon support people facing or in imminent risk of facing homelessness. We ask them how much of an issue they think it is in Saskatoon, what they think the reasons are ... and what we as a community might be able to do about it, how could we respond more effectively," Findlay explained.

Results will be released at a community forum in August.

The city of Regina did its first homelessness count earlier this spring.


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