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Canada’s never had a national homeless count — now we’re having two!

January 14, 2016


The federally-sponsored Point-in-Time (PiT) homeless count (occurring now until April 30) isn’t really a national homeless count — whole regions of the country aren’t participating. It’s also not “the first homeless count coordinated among communities across Canada”, as the Government of Canada’s website refers to it. It’s the second.

Earlier this month, when the Waterloo region of Ontario announced that it was opting out of the federal government’s big homeless count, Marie Morrison, the region’s manager of housing services, told CBC News that, “we just did a local count…last December.”

Waterloo was the first of 29 municipalities in Canada to perform a 24-hour PiT count of its homeless population as part of the Canada-wide 20,000 Homes Registry Week, a community-based initiative begun in June of 2015 to house 20,000 homeless Canadians by July 1, 2018.

If I had a dollar for every person counting the homeless…

On January 12, the city of Hamilton, Ontario, announced that it needed approximately 200 volunteers for a 24 hour homeless count taking place February 21-22, as part of a coordinated effort to measure homelessness across Canada. It was the first time, declared Hamilton, that communities across the country would “participate in a Point-in-Time Count at the same time, using the same approach.”

Hamilton is listed as one the 30 Canadian communities participating in the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy Point-in-Time Count, announced on January 5. But in this case the city was referring to the 20,000 Homes count, organized by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH), which Hamilton is also taking part in.

There are 29 communities participating in CAEH’s 20,000 Homes campaign:

  • British Columbia: Kamloops, Saltspring Island, Sechelt.
  • Saskatchewan: Regina, Saskatoon.
  • Alberta: Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Grande Prarie, Red Deer.
  • Ontario: Guelph & Wellington, Hamilton, Kingston, Lanark County, London, Ottawa, Region of Peel, Region of Waterloo, Simcoe County, Thunder Bay.
  • New Brunswick: Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John.
  • Nova Scotia: Halifax.

The Federal government’s homeless count has the participation of 30 Canadian communities, out of a possible 61 Designated Communities (DC) receiving federal regional homeless funding (non-participating DCs are crossed out):

Western Canada (11 of 22)

  • British Columbia: Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Nelson, Prince George,  Victoria (Feb. 10), Vancouver.
  • Alberta: Calgary, Edmonton, Grand Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Wood Buffalo.
  • Manitoba: Brandon, Thompson, Winnipeg.
  • Saskatchewan: Regina, Prince Albert, Saskatoon.
  • Northwest Territories: Yellowknife.
  • Yukon: Whitehorse.

Central Canada (13 of 31)

  • Quebec: Drummondville, Gatineau, Montreal – Centre, Quebec-City, Quebec-Chaudiere-Appalaches, Saguenay, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivieres.
  • Ontario: Brantford, Halton,  Hamilton, Kingston, London, Niagara, North Bay, Peterborough, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, York, Windsor, Belleville, Dufferin County, Durham, Guelph-Wellington, Ottawa, Peel, Simcoe-Barrie, Sudbury, Toronto, Waterloo.
  • Nunavut: Iqaluit.

Eastern Canada (7 of 9)

  • New Brunswick: Bathurst, Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: St. John’s.
  • Nova Scotia: Sydney/Cape Breton, Halifax.
  • Prince Edward Island: Charlottetown & Summerside.

There is an overlap of at least 10 communities taking part in both homeless enumerations: Fredericton, Halifax, Hamilton, Kingston, Kamloops, London, Moncton, Regina, Saint John and Thunder Bay.

The degree to which the two counts duplicate or complement each other is not clear but they seem to be counting the same thing, the same way, for the same purpose. Both the federal government and the CAEH appear to be on exactly the same page so far as performing a 24-hour, Point-in-Time count goes, in order to produce data in support of a Housing First approach to getting people off the street and into housing.

The federal government, which is providing funding to both — at least a $1 million to communities participating in its homeless count as well as some amount to the CAEH’s 20,000 Homes Registry Week — apparently considers the two PiT counts complimentary, saying:

“For communities participating in the 20,000 Homes Campaign, the core questions of the count may be included alongside the assessment tool used for the Registry Week.”

In replying to a question that I posed on Twitter, the CAEH may or may not have agreed. They said that PiT was research but that the Registry was a “housing intervention” — whatever that is.


All I do know is that there are more people than ever before rushing around Canada trying to count us homeless people and that’s something to feel good about, I think, whether it actually results in reducing homelessness or not.

Like they say, it’s the thought that counts, right? Click the image to enlarge it.

From → Canada, Homeless life

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