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This article was published 16/2/2018 (1592 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Jolene Wilson knows what it’s like to live with only the street as her home.
Wilson, now a community co-ordinator at the West Central Women’s Resource Centre, said she spent 15 years living on the streets before a request for shampoo turned her life around.
"I was in the West Central Women’s Resource Centre and asked for shampoo," she said.
"They saw things in me. They said ‘You have a great voice.’ They offered me programs, education and eventually offered me a job... I now have a home and a job."
Wilson hopes the city’s second street census, announced Friday, will help reduce Winnipeg’s homeless problem.
The census, to take place April 18, will see hundreds of volunteers hit the streets for 24 hours in an attempt to count the number of homeless people in Winnipeg and record their stories.
"I have 15 years of experience on the streets," Wilson said. "I don’t think anyone should spend 15 years — or 15 minutes — there."
Wilson, who believes the census will find more homeless people than the last one in 2015, said the count has to continue until the no one is left living on the streets.
"Getting the stories of the people out there is the only way we will find out what the gaps are," she said.
The upcoming census will be the second one in the city. The first — Oct. 25, 2015 — found at least 1,400 homeless people.
Organizers say they expect to count more this year because volunteers will be dispatched beyond the inner city, with a focus on areas where people stand on boulevards asking motorists for assistance.
"Homelessness is a reality for too many Canadians and a challenge for every community," Jean-Yves Duclos, the federal minister of families, children and social development, said in a statement Friday.
Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette (Winnipeg Centre) said it’s important Winnipeg has an accurate measure of homelessness because Ottawa has committed $2.2 billion to housing across Canada.
"Winnipeg, it seems, has a disproportionate number of people who are homeless. We really need to have a good sense of data on populations across the country to make sure we are putting the resources where they are needed most."
The census, which will cost $81,000, will be paid for by the federal government, while the city will provide administrative services.
Acting deputy mayor Matt Allard said the city is looking for people to volunteer to work on the census.
Allard said anyone interested can go to streetcensuswpg.ca for information.
"This is valuable information for government, community organizations and funders," he said. "It will provide the information needed for real action and for solutions."
Kim Sanford of Doorways, an organization that helps people who are homeless, said she hopes the census is one more way to end homelessness in the city.
"The street census is a call for action," Sanford said. "They matter. They count."
As for Wilson, she hopes the stories collected from the homeless will make a difference.
"It’s not enough to spend one night on the street to know what homelessness is," she said.
"We need to keep doing this. We need to keep reaching out. These stories are the key. We need to raise their voices."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.