June 24, 2018

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Homelessness not improving

14 per cent of polled say they have nowhere to sleep but the streets: Winnipeg Street Census

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Street Census volunteers Heather Campbell-Enns, right, and Lisa Manning, behind left, interview homeless people living in a makeshift shanty camp in a park in Winnipeg's core area.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Street Census volunteers Heather Campbell-Enns, right, and Lisa Manning, behind left, interview homeless people living in a makeshift shanty camp in a park in Winnipeg's core area.

The state of homelessness in Winnipeg doesn’t look much different than it did three years ago, results of the latest street census show.

Initial findings of the Winnipeg Street Census 2018 — the second edition of a comprehensive count that seeks to further knowledge about the extent and nature of homelessness in the city — were published Tuesday. Of the 1,500 homeless Winnipeggers surveyed April 18 by teams of volunteers, 14 per cent had nowhere to sleep but the streets. Those either couch-surfing or staying in a shelter made up nearly half of respondents.

The first such census took place Oct. 25, 2015. Volunteers then found at least 1,400 people didn’t have a permanent home, with less than 10 per cent of respondents sleeping outside.

“One of the things that stands out for me is just how much hasn’t changed in the past three years,” said Josh Brandon, the lead author of the report and community animator at the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

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The state of homelessness in Winnipeg doesn’t look much different than it did three years ago, results of the latest street census show. 

Initial findings of the Winnipeg Street Census 2018 — the second edition of a comprehensive count that seeks to further knowledge about the extent and nature of homelessness in the city — were published Tuesday. Of the 1,500 homeless Winnipeggers surveyed April 18 by teams of volunteers, 14 per cent had nowhere to sleep but the streets. Those either couch-surfing or staying in a shelter made up nearly half of respondents.

The first such census took place Oct. 25, 2015. Volunteers then found at least 1,400 people didn’t have a permanent home, with less than 10 per cent of respondents sleeping outside. 

"One of the things that stands out for me is just how much hasn’t changed in the past three years," said Josh Brandon, the lead author of the report and community animator at the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

"The groups that were experiencing disproportionate levels of homelessness (in 2015), in particular Indigenous people and young people, continue to be disproportionately represented. We also see a lot of the same trends around people that had experience in foster care or group homes, being overrepresented."

In 2015, more than 70 per cent of the homeless Winnipeggers surveyed identified as Indigenous. That number dropped 10 per cent in 2018. 

As for those who experienced homelessness for 10 or more years throughout their lives, the majority first experienced homelessness when they were 18 years old or younger, the survey said.

"If we don’t invest upstream, helping families and young people, this is going to be a problem that’ll stick with us through decades," Brandon said. 

None of the numbers surprised Jolene Wilson, community connector at West Central Women’s Resource Centre.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Gordon Kent waits to get into Siloam Mission on Monday. ‘The creator gave us land to live off and, next thing you know, you’ve got no place to live,’ Kent said.</p></p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Gordon Kent waits to get into Siloam Mission on Monday. ‘The creator gave us land to live off and, next thing you know, you’ve got no place to live,’ Kent said.

"This is just the folks that were willing to talk about their homelessness, and I think that’s what needs to be really put out there. These numbers are great, the work is great, this is stuff we really need to know, but the numbers themselves are just the tip of the iceberg," said Wilson, who said she, too, was homeless for 15 years.

Carol Morris, grant co-ordinator at Siloam Mission, volunteered during the April census. She said many of the stories she was told involved residential school survivors and women who had fled abusive relationships.

One of the people accessing the services Monday at Siloam, Gordon Kent, said he’s spent half his life without a stable home and experienced homelessness for the first time when he was seven years old. 

"The creator gave us land to live off and, next thing you know, you’ve got no place to live," the 55-year-old Ojibwe man from Sagkeeng First Nation said. 

"(My home’s) kind of rough right now, but that’s the typical native way of life: harsh, oppression," said Kent, who’s been living off social assistance since an injury put him out of construction work when he was 27.

Having spent countless nights on family members’ couches and in public spaces engaging with other homeless Winnipeggers, Kent said he’s not surprised about the numbers of Indigenous homeless people in the city. He said he believes they face an additional challenge of discrimination when it comes to finding affordable housing.

"Sometimes, even when I did have an apartment, I’d go sleep on a bench, too, just to feel back to normal."

 The $81,000 census is funded through the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which is administered through the City of Winnipeg as the local entity. 

The census report will be published in its entirety in early September.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @macintoshmaggie

 

 

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History

Updated on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 at 6:59 AM CDT: Adds photos

9:05 AM: Corrects date of study's release

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