Lacombe FCSS homelessness count releases preliminary results

36 completed surveys and 55 anecdotal clients leads to 91 population estimate

Lacombe and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is pleased to share the preliminary results of a survey that looks at the extent of homelessness across rural Alberta.

“Currently, there is extremely limited information on rural and remote homelessness, and this is an issue not only in Alberta but across North America,” said Lacombe and District FCSS Executive Director Susan MacDonald. “As a consequence of this lack of hard data, funding for rural homelessness prevention and reduction initiatives is substantially less than in urban areas, despite the available research and reports from service agencies indicating there are similar levels of homelessness in rural communities as in urban settings, based on proportion of population.”

The count, which includes 21 communities, is one of the largest projects to collect rural homelessness data in the world. This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy and administered by the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN), in partnership with the Family and Community Support Services Association of Alberta (FCSSAA).

The project will provide data on each community as well as a needs’ snapshot of the kind of social services that being accessed within the communities. Lacombe and District FCSS was one of the 14 organizations in Alberta granted funding to carry out a population estimation count. The agency also received additional funding from the City of Lacombe’s Affordable Housing Initiative.

The 2018 Homelessness Estimation Project was conducted in Fall 2018. Print surveys were collected from October 14 to November 15, covering the city of Lacombe, the village of Clive and surrounding areas. Population estimation data was collected on the homeless population by participating service agencies.

Clients who come to access social services over a 30-day period were invited to fill out surveys. The survey provides information on the characteristics of the local homeless population (gender, age, etc.). It helps the community identify needs and develop strategies to implement resources to support this group.

The population estimation method deviates from the Point-in-Time Count (PiT) methodology where volunteers scour the community during a 24-hour period to conduct surveys with the individuals they come across. Population estimation is mostly used when there are limited resources to conduct a PiT, where homelessness is mostly hidden, or where the population is spread out over a large area, making it difficult for volunteers to conduct a PiT count efficiently.

“Homelessness is often hidden in rural communities and rarely looks like it does in urban centres,” said Project Lead Connie Malena. “Consequently, rural communities are often met with disbelief when attempts are made to address the issue of homelessness within their communities.

This skepticism is the underlying motivation to develop an effective and inexpensive practice to collect data and identify the scope of homelessness in Alberta’s rural communities.”

-Submitted by Lacombe FCSS

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