KDSB releases figures for second homelessness enumeration
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
The Kenora District Services Board (KDSB) has completed its second homelessness enumeration for the communities it services. The results of this survey will be compared to the previous enumeration which took place in 2018, to help guide future service planning. While one take away from this year’s survey is that homelessness numbers have dropped across the area, Henry Wall, CAO of the Kenora District Services Board explained that part of the reason for the drop is the methodology used this time around.
“For this study the province required us to use a point in time count, or pit count, which means that we had one day to be in the community and work with community partners. Just by the very nature in the change of methodology, pit counts are always lower than period prevalence counts because it’s just one point in time and you miss people. What we did find, was that there were 36-37 individuals who identified as chronically homeless in Sioux Lookout. That’s a somewhat high number but we also know that that is under reported as well, so that even though we had some incredible support from our community partners, from the (Nishnawbe-Gamik) Friendship Centre, from the First Step Women’s Shelter, the Hostel, Police Services, the Municipality, we could only do so much in a day.”
Although the number of individuals self-described as homeless was lower in Sioux Lookout this count, Wall feels that given the under reporting caused by the change in methodology, our numbers are still quite high for a community of this size. Wall continued, “Previously in Sioux Lookout I believe we had 67 individuals that were identified as homeless (using the period prevalence counts). As you can imagine, in a community the size of Sioux Lookout that is a significant number. For Sioux Lookout, it didn’t change that drastically despite the methodologies used. That tells us that the pandemic is having an impact on homelessness, having an impact on families being able to afford their housing situation and that was certainly a concern that was raised to the enumeration study. That came through loud and clear, and we believe that both Canada and Ontario need to be paying attention to.”
Wall also expressed concern over the lack of “in community” supports that can have a positive impact on the lives of marginalized community members, stating, “They (the federal and provincial governments) need to be listening to what the community is saying, that the lack of access to alcohol programs, to detox programs, is hurting people. It’s hurting the community, its causing people to die prematurely. The days of our communities having to send community members hundreds of kilometers away just to access treatment...it never worked in the first place.”
Looking ahead, Wall is hoping to reach a point where doing enumeration every several years becomes unnecessary, explaining, “Something that we are working on with all of our partners across the province is a by name list. Once fully implemented it would really remove the need to every couple of years to do a study to get a sense or get a handle on what is the need going to be. A by name list would actually allow for data at any given time, to really have a sense of what homelessness looks like today, or four weeks from now… It’ll allow for a better connection to services for people that are vulnerable and experiencing temporary homelessness. If we can help sooner, it will help keep people from falling into chronic homelessness. The other piece to this is it demonstrates the need for KDSB and the municipalities and the First Nations communities to work hand in hand. We won’t do it just in Sioux Lookout if we don’t work with the communities in the far north.”
Despite the difficulties of the past several years living with the pandemic, Wall sees the positive changes that come from communities working together. “Through this pandemic it’s been so challenging. And seeing these community partners coming together and working together to help people and families has been quite encouraging in terms of what is possible when we work together,” he added. “Even with the limited resources that we have. Through the enumeration study and just through this pandemic it has allowed us to see the art of the possible when we work together.”