Even with an annual survey, it’s hard to pin down the number of homeless people on the streets of Penticton.
Despite some hopeful preliminary numbers from the second annual 100 Homes Penticton survey — conducted in Nov. 2017 — homelessness remains a problem for the community.
“This year, we surveyed 101 unique people in the community, of which 80 were experiencing homelessness,” said Tanya Behardien, chair of the 100 Homes Penticton steering committee, while delivering an update to Penticton city council on Tuesday.
But the “registry week” survey, she explained, is only a snapshot of a particular point in time.
“Our best current estimate of people that we have counted and know to be homeless is 163,” said Behardien, noting that is an increase over last year, which set the number at 128.
That number, 163, is based on people from the latest count, but also the people 100 Homes was already working with.
Behardien also told city council that they helped 57 people find housing, on their way to the group’s goal of finding housing for 100 people by 2020. The number caused Coun. Helena Konanz concern. She questioned if the number of homeless was increasing, even after housing had been found for 57.
“If we’re doing the math here, we’re actually going backwards,” said Konanz.
Behardien said the 57 is based on publicly available records, but their own experience suggests the number of people they’ve helped into housing is higher.
“Part of our discussion is how do we tell that story better,” said Behardien.
Just the number alone, she said, is not the best reflection of what is going on with housing, since it doesn’t include factors like the number of new units coming online.
“We know we need to tell the story a little bit differently about what is happening.”
It’s hard to get exact numbers on the size of the homelessness problem, but Behardien said Penticton is not the only community dealing with the problem.
“I think we’re at a time when many communities would say homelessness is a challenge for them,” she said, explaining that she is hearing similar questions and concerns from peers in other communities.
Overall, Behardien said the 100 Homes concept is working, bringing together community leaders from government, non-profits, faith-based organizations and the business sector to work on housing and support issues.
“There are success stories … individuals that we’ve seen make successful transitions and get to a better place and a different type of housing,” said Behardien. “We’ve also seen success as organizations in our work together and reducing duplications and increasing collaboration, looking at which organizations are best positioned to deliver which resources.
100 Homes has also found funding to add the new position of a housing locator.
“The housing locator will be really key in working with landlords in the private sector and expanding our options in the housing first model,” said Behardien.