Red Deer saw an increase in homeless seniors according to the 2016 Red Deer Point in Time Homeless Count Report released on Thursday.
The count, conducted Oct. 19, found 149 people to be homeless and five per cent were age 65 and older, up from one per cent in the 2014 count.
“We were a bit surprised at the seniors numbers,” said Roxana Nielsen Stewart, social planning supervisor with the city.
“It’s still not be a huge amount, but we have to be prepared to provide services and supports.”
Services people require depends on the individual but can include providing a rent supplement, helping them find and keep housing by working with the landlord, and supports to address mental health issues or addictions.
The largest segment of homeless, 18 per cent, were between age 30 and 34. In the 2014 count, those between 25 to 29 were the largest group at 16.3 per cent.
The count showed more people were chronically homelessness at 43 per cent, up from 35.4 per cent in 2014.
Nielsen Stewart said in July the city had shifted its focus to the chronic homeless population and the count confirmed that was the group to prioritize for housing supports and services.
A jump in the percentage of homeless not using shelters was also identified. Twenty-five per cent, or 37 people, were living rough compared to 16 per cent in 2014.
The number of homeless using a makeshift shelter or tent in a park, parkland, forest, other public land or private property doubled to 18 from nine in 2014.
Another 18 homeless used public spaces like sidewalks or bus shelters, up from 10 in 2014.
She said refocusing on chronic homeless included those sleeping outdoors.
“There is a team now funded and their role is to make sure they are out in the community actually speaking to these folks and that has been very successful.”
A preliminary report on the count was released in November and the full report can be found at www.reddeer.ca/pitcount.