Homeless count to go ahead on P.E.I., despite challenges of pandemic

The street count will be Monday night in Charlottetown. (Canadian Press - image credit)
The street count will be Monday night in Charlottetown. (Canadian Press - image credit)

The John Howard Society has decided it cannot wait any longer, and will go ahead with its point in time homelessness survey this week on P.E.I.

The count, conducted every two years, was cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Donna Keenan, reaching home coordinator with the John Howard Society, said the survey is an important part of its work in advocating for people who are homeless.

"That's what we hear all the time. You know, that's what everyone wants. What are the numbers?" said Keenan.

Getting those numbers is challenging at the best of times, she said.

Homelessness is fluid, with people moving in and out of different living arrangements, and the survey is just a snapshot of a particular day. There are also the hidden homeless, people who may be coach surfing with family and friends, and don't want anyone to know they don't have a home of their own.

Adapting to pandemic restrictions

The pandemic adds to those challenges.

Normally there would be a committee of volunteers helping the society, but striking a committee in a time of social distancing is too complicated. The count would also normally include a connect event where people who are homeless are offered various services — a meal, a haircut — but that is also not possible.

"It will be a little different, a little more challenging, possibly, but we're going ahead with it," said Keenan.

There will be a street count in Charlottetown Monday night and in Summerside on Tuesday. The John Howard Society will work with local agencies to reach as many homeless people as it can. In addition to a simple count, willing participants will be asked to complete a survey of information about how they came to be without a home,

While there will not be a count outside of P.E.I.'s two cities, the society will be talking to agencies operating in rural areas to get some idea of the extent of homelessness there.

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