ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Hundreds of people — including dozens of youth — are forced to sleep at emergency shelters, friends' homes and in parks throughout the year in St. John's, N.L., according to a unique report that measured homelessness in the city.
End Homelessness St. John's released the province's first homeless point-in-time count Tuesday, finding that at least 166 people were homeless in the city last Nov. 30, when the count was conducted. That included 38 people between the ages of 16 and 24.
Shawn Skinner, the group's chairman, said the information was gathered by 100 volunteers who fanned out through the city last year to count people on the street, while also using data from shelters and other institutions.
"It supports our plan by providing information about the demographics of our local homeless population as well as insight into the factors that cause and perpetuate their homelessness," he said in a statement. "Our findings underscore the fact that those experiencing homelessness want housing and appropriate supports."
Of the 166 people deemed homeless on that date, 81 stayed at shelters, three were in unsheltered sites and 55 stayed in institutional settings, such as prisons and addiction-treatment centres. Another 22 were housed with friend's or family members because they didn't have a place of their own. Three were unsheltered in parks, tents, cars or bus shelters.
But the group estimates that during the course of a year, about 800 people in St. John's experience homelessness and rely on various facilities for shelter.
"The number presented in this report likely just scratches the surface of the true extent of homelessness in St. John's," the report states. "It is just a snapshot revealing the tip of a much larger iceberg."
The group also interviewed people, finding that the majority experiencing homelessness want housing but can't afford it because of low incomes and high rental rates.
It said the age at which people became homeless ranged from three to 63, and they came from a variety of backgrounds with education levels going from elementary to graduate school. The average age for someone first experiencing homelessness was 18. Some were employed, while others had no income.
The research also showed that indigenous people were overrepresented in the homeless population, with just over 19 per cent of respondents identifying as aboriginal. Also, almost 22 per cent identified as part of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community.
The Canadian Press