A man adjusts his toque in the rain outside of the Gospel Mission. The colder weather has arrived in Kelowna and homeless shelters are operating at full capacity. - Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

Kelowna homelessness count shows more people without shelter

Central Okanagan Foundation point-in-time survey shows hundreds without homes in Kelowna

Kelowna’s housing troubles are in focus this week, with the release of the Central Okanagan Foundation’s point-in-time homelessness count.

During a March 6 survey, volunteers counted 286 men and women experiencing homelessness, which is a 23 per cent increase from the last survey in 2016.

For the most recent count, 234 people were staying in a homeless shelter, while 52 individuals were experiencing unsheltered homelessness.

An additional 264 individuals were living in interim housing and 55 more were in institutional care.

And the length of a typical homeless person’s stay in a shelter has increased from 192 days to 241 days, or about eight months, from 192 days in 2016.

Top reasons for homelessness, according to the report, are addiction issues, household conflict, illness or a medical condition, job loss, and being unable to afford rental rates.

The bulk of the homeless population was male, with 68 per cent being men, 31 per cent women, one per cent transgender. Two per cent of the homeless were immigrants or refugees that had moved to Canada in the previous five years, while Indigenous people, which make up less than six per cent of Kelowna’s total population, accounted for one-quarter of its homeless population.

Volunteer teams were armed with a survey the night of the count and a total of 193 were completed, including 118 sheltered homeless and 14 unsheltered homeless, representing a response rate of 50 per cent of the sheltered homeless population and 27 per cent of the identified unsheltered homeless population.

“The two primary purposes of the Kelowna PiT Count are to first provide an enumeration, or count, of people experiencing absolute homelessness, and secomd through a survey, provide information on the characteristics of the homeless population,” reads the report from the Central Okanagan Foundation.

READ MORE: HIGHLY MOTIVATED TO END HOMELESSNESS

The PiT Count, which was conducted in 61 communities, provides vital information to participating communities about their homeless population, and contribute to the understanding of homelessness in Canada.

“Once again this year, I would like to thank the Central Okanagan Foundation, in the role of the Community Entity, for carrying out the Kelowna Point-in-Time (PiT) Count, a national coordinated effort led by the Government of Canada to measure homelessness in Canada,” said Stephen Fuhr, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country.

“Understanding the factors that result in homelessness will help us focus on prevention efforts and find permanent, supportive solutions for people experiencing homelessness in our community.”

These findings may act as a continued benchmark to track changes in the homeless population over time and will allow us to measure progress towards our ultimate goal: ending homelessness in Kelowna.

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