BNRC survey shows decline in homelessness

"PiT Count" shows 58.7 per cent drop in number of homeless individuals in Brandon compared to 2016, but survey coordinators note that numbers are fluid from month to month.

The results of a survey conducted by the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation (BNRC) in April suggests the number of homeless individuals in the city appears to be decreasing compared to a similar study conducted in 2016.

On Sept. 21, the BNRC released the results of their “Everyone Counts” survey, a PiT (Point in Time) initiative that analyses homelessness every two years, that was conducted in April. A total of 84 surveys and data collected by observation and from local shelters identified 121 individuals as homeless in Brandon at that time. This result represents a 58.7 per cent drop from the 2016 survey, which counted 206 homeless individuals.

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The PiT Count canvassed several areas of the city, but emphasis was placed on Brandon’s downtown core.

“The numbers were certainly down, which is good news, but must be taken within the context of the limitations of the survey,” said Carly Gasparini, executive director for BNRC. “It is not meant to be an absolute count and, obviously, weather and other factors will play a role in how many individuals are available to respond to the survey.”

Nevertheless, Gasparini suggested various initiatives developed since 2016 have contributed to the results found in the 2018 count. This includes the BNRC Housing First program, which connects homeless people with permanent housing and helps them stay there.

“Beyond the overall, total numbers, we also learned more about how people are experiencing homelessness,” Gasparini said. “We know that families in our community including children are experiencing homelessness and that addiction is a major barrier for many individuals in trying to secure and maintain housing. We also know that Indigenous people continue to be severely over-represented in our homeless population, which points to the need for our community to take a serious look at the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Report and we can take steps to implement them meaningfully.”

The “Everyone Counts” survey also showed a slight decrease in the number of homeless people that have found shelter in the city. In 2016, 118 people were surveyed in shelters, while this year’s number of individuals was 41. The number of observed homeless also dropped drastically, from 25 in 2016 to just seven this year.

However, the number of unsheltered people surveyed increased from the previous count; from 28 two years ago to 36 this year.

The BNRC notes that the PiT count is a snapshot of statistics in the city and survey comparisons should be completed with caution considering how the number of homeless found in Brandon changes from week to week.

“This information is vital to informing service providers about the needs of those experiencing homelessness,” said Gasparini.

“For example, in 2016 we learned that almost 50 per cent of our homeless population was under the age of 30, which lead to the development of the ‘Plan to End Youth Homelessness,’ which is currently being used to guide our youth focused programs. Information such as the high number of people experiencing addictions challenges allows service providers to focus on the issues facing our community.”

The BNRC “Everyone Counts” survey also found the following:

• 66 respondents had experienced addiction.

• 62 – or 81 per cent – of respondents identified as Indigenous.

• 48 men and 31 women were interviewed.

• the average age of respondents was 37, while they reported that they first became homeless at an average age of 25.

• 79 per cent of respondents moved to Brandon from somewhere else in Brandon.

• 97 per cent of respondents said they want to acquire permanent housing.

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