First results of Nelson homeless count higher than expected

Nelson’s first homeless point-in-time count and survey released initial figures from their survey undertaken last week.

Registration table volunteers for the point-in-time count

Registration table volunteers for the point-in-time count

Nelson’s first homeless point-in-time count and survey released initial figures from their survey  undertaken last week, involving over 50 volunteers working with the Nelson Committee on Homelessness.

Volunteers surveyed seventy people who were experiencing homelessness or precarious shelter issues,” said Ann Harvey, Nelson’s count coordinator. “This was more than we expected.”

Individuals were first screened for whether they had already been surveyed, and through several questions on what their current housing situation was to determine if they should answer the survey.

Teams of volunteers surveyed five geographic areas throughout Nelson which covered the lakeshore areas from the orange bridge to the far end of the dog walk by the airport, the mall area, all of downtown and a bit of Uphill, the Railtown area and Cottonwood Park.

Teams were also sent to eight service provider sites to survey people who used their services that day. The timelines were set to interact with people where they were known to be during certain times of the day and avoid as much duplication as possible.

Residents of emergency shelters and transitional housing were also surveyed.

Counts are also being sought from public system accommodations that sheltered patients or detainees or clients from Nelson on Tuesday night who had no fixed address to return to upon release.

A point-in-time count and survey takes a snapshot of people’s housing situation within a 24 hour period.

“The method of a point in time count is to approach everyone,” Harvey said, “because you can never tell who just lost their housing or is struggling in a precarious or unsafe home situation. Surveyors made over 640 approaches, and observed a further 122 people. Out of this, first tallies show that over 300 unique individuals were engaged, 70 of whom were surveyed with homelessness or precarious housing issues,” said Harvey.

The information collected will be reviewed for duplications and clarity and then analysed.  Final data  will be reported back to the community in late June, and shared with service providers, funders and all levels of government.

Initial points that stand out include:

the largest barrier identified was the lack of access to affordable rental housing;

many of those surveyed have complex and/or multiple health issues;

many people had their first incidence of homelessness at a young age;

ages of those surveyed ranged from in their their teens to in their 60s;

by far the majority of those surveyed were local residents who had been here for more than a year or longer.

“I would like to thank all of the incredible volunteers for their contribution and help to conduct this count and survey,” added Harvey, “with an even bigger thank you to the people who agreed to be surveyed — who shared personal information, experiences and details of their living situations. They have helped to shine a brighter light on the nature and extent of homelessness issues in Nelson and what could help to address them.”