Homelessness is a significant issue for all Edmontonians. It affects how we relate to our neighbours, and it affects how the systems and structures in our city work within our community. Edmonton has a long history of collaborating as a community of stakeholders committed to achieved goal of ending homelessness.
In March 1999, the Edmonton Task Force on Homelessness organized the first official count. It provided a snapshot of the city’s homeless population and established a baseline against which to monitor changes. following recommendations from the report "A Call to Action: Homelessness in Edmonton," subsequent counts took place in November 1999, March 2000, September 2000, October 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Data from the count is crucial for community agencies, researchers, and government to estimate the size and demographic characteristics of our homeless population and to measure the impact of various housing initiatives and policies. Homeless Count data is also vital in advocating for needed resources, and for raising awareness among policymakers and the general population about the scope of homelessness in the city. Importantly, the Homeless Count provides the opportunity for community collaboration and partnerships, continuing our hallmark of commitment and involvement towards ending homelessness.
Since 2009, the context of homelessness in the City of Edmonton has changed dramatically, through implementing the city's "A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness" and the Government of Alberta’s "A Plan for Alberta: Ending Homelessness in Ten Years." Along with these plans, the collaborative efforts and shared vision of Edmonton’s community of stakeholders, is a vital component of achieving our goal of ending homelessness.
In 2016, 1,752 individuals experiencing homelessness were counted which marked a decrease of 43% from the 2008 count. While this decrease is substantial, homelessness continues to be an issue in our community. Since 2009, efforts to end homelessness have resulted in over 6,600 people housed and supported through the Housing First program. As such, while we cannot predict whether the number will go up or down this year, it is important to continue to monitor trends and understand where more attention and resources are required.
The Edmonton Homeless Count Committee is a working group of Homeward Trust Edmonton. The orders of government, the community serving the homeless and individual volunteers are actively involved with organizing and implementing this count.
Homelessness has many faces. “Edmontonians experiencing homelessness live in every part of our city: on the streets, in parks, in abandoned buildings. Some make use of the shelters, others couch-surf” (Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness, 2009, p. 15). While we recognize that each individual and story is unique, for the purposes of this count, the Edmonton Homeless Count Committee uses the following definitions of homeless:
Unsheltered - or absolutely homeless and living on the streets or in places not intended for human habitation.
Emergency Sheltered - including those staying in overnight shelters for people who are homeless, as well as shelters for those impacted by family violence.
Provisionally Accommodated - referring to those whose accommodation is temporary or lacks security of tenure: for example, staying with a friend, in a medica facility, etc.
The Homeless Count will take place over a 24 hour period.
You will encounter a variety of experiences when conducting the Homeless Count. You will be surveying everyone you encounter during your shift. You may encounter people who have homes, are staying with friends, couch surfing, living in a shelter, living in their cars, or camping in the river valley. There are many faces of homelessness, and none fit a specific description. It is important to keep an open mind.
Safety: All volunteers will be placed in teams of two or more for the entirety of the shift. While we do not anticipate any unsafe situations for volunteers, given the positive experiences of volunteers since 1999, safety measures are in place to ensure all volunteers feel safe throughout their shift. In an effort to deliver a consistent safety message, all volunteers must attend the mandatory training sessions. A member from the Edmonton Police Service will be speaking to volunteers at the training session about safety precautions and tools to mitigate potential situations as a resource.
Low Enumeration Numbers: This ambitious project is only possible through the efforts of our wonderful volunteers who freely give of their time to and offer their skills for the Count. It is important to remember that not finding anyone is as important as finding someone, so do not get frustrated if you are working at a site where you engage with relatively few people experiencing homelessness.
Yes. We value your time and participation and believe in establishing and maintaining a safe and supportive environment for all volunteers. At each base site, a Base Site Coordinator will be available to talk about your experience with you, if needed.
All base sites will have beverages and snacks available for volunteers.
Costs associated with the initiative will be minimal as most of the activity depends upon volunteers. Approximately 300 volunteers are needed for this year’s count. Many of the supplies for this initiative have been donated by local businesses and organizations including supplies and food.
Although a point–in-time count (PIT) cannot measure the comprehensive, social, economic, and cultural picture of homelessness or those at risk of homelessness, the count helps us understand the magnitude of homelessness. It allows us to develop a local portrait of homelessness in Edmonton.
We use Homeless Count data to:
Align with the Federal Government’s Homelessness and Partnering Strategy Program 2014-2019. That has outlined the target population as individuals who are chronically or episodically homeless, mandating that the 10 largest communities understand the size and location of their chronically and episodically homeless populations.
Align with the Alberta's and Edmonton's 10 Year Plans to End Homelessness
Analyze different subpopulations, including Indigenous and Immigrant/Refugee populations, unaccompanied children and youth, and veterans. With the national standardization of the PIT survey and our consistent methodology, these counts allow Edmonton to assess progress in ending homelessness.
Coordinate and engage the community by recognizing the importance of homelessness as both a community and social issue. It brings wider attention to those experiencing homelessness.
Importantly, the data from PIT counts can be used at a policy level to facilitate successful solutions and coordinate resources.
Every two years, Homeward Trust Edmonton has coordinated the Homeless Count to track the number of homeless individuals in Edmonton. This will be the eleventh in a series of counts dating back to 1999. Working together as a community of stakeholders is a vital component to achieving our shared goal of ending homelessness. In 2016, hundreds of volunteers and dozens of organizations and agencies across the city collaborated and participated in the Homeless Count. It is this partnership that makes the count successful.
We are a community-based, comprehensive housing organization that provides leadership and resources toward ending homelessness in Edmonton. Our mandate is fulfilled by leading initiatives and programs, engaging community stakeholders and partners, conducting research, creating awareness, and funding housing and support projects.
We are one of seven community-based organizations in Alberta working with the Government of Alberta to implement strategies set out in the province’s ten year plan to end homelessness. We also work closely with the Federal Government in delivery funding from the Homelessness Partnering Strategy for Housing First and support service projects.
Our work is guided by the principles of Housing First, a philosophy rooted in the belief that every person has the right to a safe, secure home. This principle is at the core of both the municipal and provincial ten year plans to end homelessness, the federal HPS program, and the Housing First Support Program, which focuses on ending homelessness by providing permanent housing and follow-up support.
From the Housing First Support Program’s inception in April 2009 to present, over 6,600 individuals have been housed and provided support to help them achieve stability and self-sufficiency.