Thunder Bay·Up North

Thunder Bay homeless hoping count leads to housing

Thunder Bay completed its first ever point-in-time count this weekend. Volunteers also registered homeless people for the 20,000 Homes Campaign.

Thunder Bay completed its first ever point-in-time count this weekend

Point-in-time coordinator Jacki Alto preps volunteers at City Hall for this weekend's homeless count. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

Some homeless people in Thunder Bay say they hope the weekend's first-ever homeless count will lead to action on housing.

Community organizations, such as the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre, the Lakehead Social Planning Council and Shelter House teamed up to carry out a point-in-time count – a snapshot of the city's homeless population during a given time period – between Saturday and Sunday evening.

Volunteers also registered homeless people for the 20,000 Homes Campaign, an initiative to try and house Canada's most vulnerable homeless by July 1, 2018.

Volunteers in Thunder Bay counted the homeless population in the city this past weekend. 9:41

"People need to do more about the people that are homeless across Canada.  This is not fair," said Shelter House resident Hazel Cripps.

"Especially when they let these Syrian refugees into Canada – they get everything.  What about these people across Canada that are homeless?"  she asked.  

"It's so cold.  Why would they want to be sleeping outside?  They could die," she said.

Even veterans are homeless

Having a home of her own would give Cripps peace and quiet to continue her education and improve her mental health, she said, adding Thunder Bay should renovate buildings to create homes for people on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.  
Bonnie Krysowaty, the social researcher and planner at the Lakehead Social Planning Council, said final numbers from the homeless count should be ready within two weeks. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

"Even the veterans here in Canada are homeless also too, so something has to be done about it," she said. 

Ramsey Cutfeet said he didn't know about the homeless count until asked about it by CBC, but he added, "I think they should get more housing." 

"It's really hard to find a house," he said. "It's like 800 bucks." 

Asked what he wanted count volunteers to know about his situation, he replied, "It's really hard.  It's a hard struggle, you know?"  

Ashamed to come forward

"The other night, I see my uncle passed out over there all covered in snow," he continued. "What kind of system - what kind of people help these people?"

Evelyn Winter, who accompanied Cutfeet in the survey area at City Hall, said she was there to represent herself and several friends who didn't want to participate in the count because they said they were ashamed to come and speak for themselves.

At Shelter House, offices, boardrooms and even hall spaces were transformed into makeshift interview areas from 6 p.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday, as volunteers surveyed homeless people about their background, health issues and history of homelessness.

Data entry starts right away

People were free to opt out of the surveys or decline to answer any portion of them, said Brad King, the shelter's acting executive director.  

The Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre also served meals and administered surveys throughout the 24-hour window.

City Hall hosted a survey station on Saturday night, and volunteers were scheduled to visit the Salvation Army and local soup vans.

In addition, organizers requested tallies of homeless people from the hospital emergency room, jails and the detox centre, said point-in-time coordinator Jacki Alto.

Data entry was set to begin early Monday morning, said Bonnie Krysowaty, social researcher and planner with the Lakehead Social Planning Council.

Final numbers are expected within two weeks, she said.

What do homeless people have to say about this weekend's homeless count? 4:49