KDSB releases 2021 Homelessness Enumeration report
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
Putting an end to homelessness in the region will take a community wide effort but is ultimately a goal that can be realized.
That’s the key message Kenora District Services Board (KDSB) Chief Administrative Officer Henry Wall shared in commenting on the release of the board’s 2021 Homelessness Enumeration report to the public.
Wall sees the release as an opportunity to walk area communities through the findings. A public presentation of the report can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3Dlvskp.
Wall noted that the necessity of doing Point in Time (PIT) counts for the most recent survey did have some drawbacks over previous years, as it afforded the organizations involved less time to get an accurate tally of individuals self identifying as homeless in any given community. As he explained, “I think that’s important to identify, that with a Point in Time count, something that all 47 Service Managers all have to use at all points in Ontario, there is a higher risk of under representation. That’s certainly been the case for us. But still, there are a lot of things we are learning through this.”
Some of the findings might come as more of a surprise than others.
Wall notes, “The child welfare system in a very broad context needs to be weaved throughout why people feel they are homeless. A significant number, almost half of the individuals that were surveyed through this enumeration study, were once in the child welfare system. I think that is a very important area to be looking and saying, ‘what is happening that that is the case for our region?’ When we look at how we end homelessness, it’s looking at our youth, and looking at our families. Making sure that our families are kept together and are not losing children to the child welfare system.”
Another area that the report sheds light on is the possible perceived connection between homelessness and addictions.
Wall continued, “There is also the belief that addictions are causing homelessness, and while that is true for some people, when we look at our stats now that the study is done, 38 percent cite substance abuse as their reason for homelessness. It’s not addictions that are causing people to become homeless, but it’s certainly keeping people homeless. Mental health and addictions become other factors that we need to help people with, as communities. Those are really important distinctions.”
Another area of concern that has come to light through the report is a connection between homelessness and Sioux Lookout being a hub for many who need to travel to access services outside of their home communities. Wall stated, “Sioux Lookout is the institutional transition point. People travel to Sioux Lookout for services, and then something happens, and they experience temporary homelessness. They might miss a flight, or something happens that causes them to wind up at the shelter. A high number of individuals are citing that as a reason why they are using the shelter, so looking at when people do travel... what are the supports that are needed in the community? Accountability between all the partners in the community, to ensure we can work as a collective, so people don’t fall through the cracks when they come to Sioux Lookout for service.”
“We are incredibly grateful for all the support that we received in Sioux Lookout.” Wall continued. “Though KDSB was required to do this, it definitely was a community effort. We had over 11 different community partners, different agencies that helped with the study. From our standpoint, this document belongs to the community. We hope that within the community, as well as all our partners, it’s going to help in some of their decision making and some of their strategies.”
“If we are going to end homelessness, we are going to need more homes, that’s fundamental, but there are all these other pieces that need to be in place as well. Then we can start helping our own community members heal and feel like they belong. It will be a community effort that is going to really make a difference in our ability to end homelessness,” Wall concluded, adding, “I truly believe that if we make this a priority, and focus on the development of housing we can end homelessness in our region.”