Number of homeless women appears higher than other jurisdictions

Red Deer’s first point-in-time homeless count showed 32 per cent of the city’s homeless were women — higher than other jurisdictions.

Red Deer’s first point-in-time homeless count showed 32 per cent of the city’s homeless were women — higher than other jurisdictions.

Nearly one in four homeless women also had children with them at the time of the count.

The Red Deer Point in Time Homeless Count 2012 Final Report, released online on Monday, is based on survey results from Oct. 16, when 98 volunteers canvassed outdoor areas between 7 p.m. and midnight. Surveys were also conducted at shelters, drop-in centres and remand centres.

“We didn’t have any baseline to go by so it’s all new information. It gives us some good data to work with,” said Roxana Nielsen-Stewart, program co-ordinator with the city, on Monday.

The count is part of EveryOne’s Home: Red Deer’s 5 Year Plan Towards Ending Homelessness. The count’s intent was to provide a snapshot of homelessness in the city.

The plan promotes strategies to end homelessness and create resources for those at risk.

Rebekah McDermott, co-ordinator of the city’s EveryOne’s Home Leadership Model, said information gathered from the count will help to better understand the homeless sub-populations and the specific preventions, interventions and supports required.

Future counts will be conducted every two years.

An information session on the report’s results will be held on Tuesday for city council and service providers.

Other key findings in the report:

• 279 homeless people were found the night of the count.

• 33 was the median age.

• 27 per cent had been homeless for longer than a year.

• 62 per cent called Red Deer their home and only three per cent were recent immigrants to Canada.

• Two-thirds of homeless were unsheltered — either spending the night on the street, in parks, alleyways, squatting or couch surfing.

• Shelters were operating at 87 per cent of capacity the night of the count, but those with space were for specific designated sub-populations.

• 56 per cent of homeless reported a mental illness.

• Nearly three out of four homeless reported an addiction.

• Three in five homeless had been to the emergency department in the past year, indicating the heavy strain homelessness causes to the health care system.

• 62.5 per cent of homeless families were fleeing domestic abuse or conflict.

• 50 per cent of homeless youth, aged 24 and under, were female.

• 25 per cent of homeless reported having a job but were unable to afford housing, which suggests the cost of housing is unaffordable even to those who have a job.

• 45 per cent of homeless youth reported family break-downs, abuse or conflict.

• 44 per cent of homeless were aboriginal (aboriginals make up just 4.4 per cent of overall city residents).

• Aboriginal people were homeless more than three times longer than non-aboriginals. The median length of time an aboriginal is homeless is 300 days in Red Deer, compared to 90 days for a non-aboriginal.

• 5.7 per cent of homeless previously served in the Canadian Forces. Fewer than two per cent of all Canadians are veterans, so this number is disproportionately high.