by Chris Pickup

Haldimand-Norfolk’s Social Housing dept. will be conducting an enumeration of chronically homeless people in the area, May 7-11.

The Initiative was mandated by the Ministry of Housing in a bid to end chronic homelessness in the province. However, In true Ontario government fashion, they provided no more money to the local unit to pay for the enumeration, but allowed them to take 5% more of the present funding, usually capped at 10% for administrative purposes, to be allocated toward the enumeration.

Homelessness in rural areas such as this is not as visible as it tends to be in the big cities, Tricia Givens told council committee Tuesday. This initiative will identify survey site locations, assign survey teams, work with community partners (staff and volunteers) and coordinate the information before analyzing it and reporting findings to the province and council.

To try and get a handle on the homelessness in the community, trained volunteers and staff will survey people sleeping on streets, in shelters and other community spaces during that week.  The purpose is to collect their names on a list that will help define the most vulnerable and hopefully refer them to housing and other supports.

This will be ongoing every two years to keep the lists up to date.

Councillor Rob Shirton wanted to know what the criteria was for a candidate to qualify as homeless.

Louise Lovell said volunteers will ask specific questions, such as: where did you sleep last night, where do you plan to sleep tomorrow, and depending on the answers can either direct people out of the survey, or funnel them to services.

Shirton questioned whether homelessness was a real issue in H-N.

“Hidden homelessness is a bigger problem than we think,” Lovell told him. “We need to put a number on that. It will give us a good idea what homelessness looks like in H-N.”

She added hidden homelessness is “people couch surfing, camping in a woodlot somewhere. You don’t see them on the streets, but they’re out there in the community. It’s a vast geography.”

Asked whether extra funding might be forthcoming from the province in the future, Givens noted she can’t answer that.