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Homeless numbers difficult to add up

Numbers indicate there are 35 more homeless people in Penticton than last year, but 100 Homes Penticton spokesperson Tanya Behardien says counting methods need to be assessed to ensure accuracy.
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February 21, 2018 - 2:33 PM

PENTICTON  - Penticton’s homeless housing initiative is well on its way to achieving its goal, but current statistics about the city’s homeless numbers are proving difficult to quantify.

Penticton and District Community Resources Society Executive Director and 100 Homes Chair Tanya Behardien says the 100 Homes Penticton initiative has so far housed 57 people as the group moves toward its goal of housing 100 homeless people in the city by July 2020.

Behardien spoke to Penticton City Council along with 100 Homes Penticton steering committee member Reanne Amadio to update city officials on the initiative’s progress at Tuesday’s regular council meeting, Feb. 20.

The group conducted its second annual housing registry week Nov. 14 to 17, 2017, using teams of volunteers to canvas streets and shelters for those experiencing homelessness, getting to know them by name and finding out housing needs, Behardien said.

Out of 101 individuals surveyed, 80 were homeless in what Behardien says is a “snapshot in time” of the city’s homeless situation. Sixteeen of the 101 individuals indicated they weren’t looking for housing and did not want to be surveyed.

The organization’s best guess of current homeless numbers in the city is 163, compared to 128 following last year’s survey.

Coun. Helena Konanz was concerned the numbers indicated more homeless this year than last.

“So if we’re doing the math here, we’re actually going backwards,” she said, asking for clarification.

“We’ve had a talk about this. Part of what we’ve been counting, in terms of the 57 individuals, were the people we housed into some of the new projects. We haven’t also accounted for some of the other pieces that have come on line in terms of other opportunities,” said Behardien, adding a recent committee meeting came to the conclusion the numbers weren’t the best reflection of homeless numbers.

“There are other ways we’re looking at, both to quantify the number of new housing units, but also how do we make sure we’re not counting people more than once, as well as have an accurate reflection of numbers,” she said, adding the group understands it needs to tell the story a little differently to better explain what’s happening.

She said anecdotally it did not appear homeless numbers were being affected by an influx of out of town homeless.

The group plans to address council again in late spring or early summer.

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