Carissa Bratko and Chris Richardson sit outside the Safe Harbour People’s Place Shelter in Red Deer Thursday afternoon. Bratko is currently staying at the shelter and Richardson has stayed there in the past but now has his own apartment. Both say the shelter is one of the best shelters they have encountered. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Carissa Bratko and Chris Richardson sit outside the Safe Harbour People’s Place Shelter in Red Deer Thursday afternoon. Bratko is currently staying at the shelter and Richardson has stayed there in the past but now has his own apartment. Both say the shelter is one of the best shelters they have encountered. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Fewer homeless using shelters in Red Deer

Point in Time Count finds 149 people homeless

Red Deer has seen a jump in the percentage of homeless people who are not using shelters.

The 2016 Point in Time Count carried out Oct. 19 suggested 25 per cent of homeless were on the street, up from 16 per cent during the 2014 count.

Those using shelters, short-term housing or part of a public system like a hospital, dropped to 75 per cent compared to 84 per cent in 2014.

“This is just our preliminary report, and we noted there was a bit of a trend where shelter numbers are down. That’s been occurring over the last few months so it wasn’t a surprise that the number of folks on the street had increased,” said Janell Bunbury, the city’s social planning program co-ordinator, on Tuesday.

“We’re proactively reaching out to those who are sleeping rough on the streets. I think that’s something we need to continue to do based on the numbers we’re seeing.”

She said fewer people may be using shelters for different reasons. More could be finding housing. More may prefer sleeping rough. Further analysis of data is required.

Overall, 149 people were experiencing homelessness in Red Deer during the October count. That’s an increase from 137 in 2014. But the methodology changed this year to count 18 people at the John Howard Society and Red Deer Remand Centre to match how counts are done in Alberta’s six other major communities.

In the 2012 count, 279 people were homeless in Red Deer, so the city has seen a 46.6 per cent decrease in homelessness over four years.

“We’re certainly heading in the right direction to address homelessness in our community,” Bunbury said.

“The city and its community partners have been doing a lot of good work, and we’re always looking to improve the system and meet the needs of the clients.”

Data collected last month suggested slightly more females were experiencing homelessness at 28 per cent, up from 25.3 per cent in 2014. Among males, the percentage dropped to 72 from 74.7.

Homeless who were immigrants or refugees within the last five years dropped to two per cent from 10 per cent.

A full analysis of the 2016 count will be released in the new year.

Red Deer has a five-year plan, which aims to end homelessness by 2018.

szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com