Winnipeg street health survey to focus on city's 'hidden homeless'

Winnipeg street health survey to focus on city's 'hidden homeless'

Social service groups in Winnipeg are working on a new street health survey to connect with people who are homeless, as well as those who couch-surf and are among the city's "hidden homeless."

End Homelessness Winnipeg, the Social Planning Council and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority are among a number of community agencies and organizations that are collaborating on the project, which was launched on Thursday.

"It's about helping us to understand the origins of homelessness and health and the journey of the people who experience it," said Adrienne Dudek of the Main Street Project, one of the organizations taking part in the survey.

"Homelessness is not a picture of people in despair. It's about real lives being played out every moment of every day all around us."

Winnipeg's first Street Health Report was released in 2011, outlining the day-to-day realities of hundreds of homeless individuals, including their health and personal safety.

A 2015 census found at least 1,727 people were experiencing homelessness in Winnipeg on the night of Oct. 25. That included 1,252 people who were "provisionally accommodated," meaning they were in transitional housing, in institutions, in hotels or motels, or staying temporarily with friends, family or strangers.

The latest survey, which will entail interviewing about 300 people, will focus on women and youth — two groups who may never stay in shelters but may still face homelessness.

"What about those who are invisible to us — hidden homelessness?"said End Homelessness Winnipeg CEO Louis Sorin.

"And so what about the women who might be couch-surfing, might not be visible, and because of the issues are not accessing shelters or services? How do we reach into those realities to find out about their health status?" 

Dudek and Sorin said the survey aims to foster the efficient use of health-care resources to help those who are homeless.