Before making a plan to address the homeless population, the city is first finding out just what that population consists of.
Dayle Hernblad, homelessness co-ordinator for the City of Yellowknife, says baseline information on the homeless community is needed. - Elaine Anselmi/NNSL photo
The Community Advisory Board on Homelessness (CAB) is set to host three or four dinners in March in different neighbourhoods in hopes of reaching out to the homeless community. The count is part of the city's Housing First strategy, which aims to give people a place to live before addressing other challenges such as addictions and mental health.
The city is in the early stages of a five-year project to develop a Housing First program.
"The first thing we need is a point-in-time count of people that Housing First is going to target," said city councillor Linda Bussey, CAB chair.
"That is going to allow us to develop the program around it because Housing First is not just a place to stay, it has a program around it."
Through the count, Bussey said the city will be able to get a clearer picture of the homeless demographic and their specific needs.
"If you go to the shelter, the people that work there know their clientele. At the Salvation Army, they know their clientele but to have a good read like this is going to be amazing," said Bussey.
"Everybody is going to benefit from this research."
The Housing First model, as well as point-in-time counts, have been successfully used in several cities in the south, said Dayle Hernblad, homelessness co-ordinator.
"We're doing a magnet event," said Hernblad.
"What that is is attracting persons that are homeless or at risk of homelessness to us and we will
sit down with each one individually and complete our survey."
There is a great consideration for ethics in this process, Hernblad said, ensuring the people and their privacy is respected.
Two dinners will be held in the downtown area, one in Frame Lake, and possibly another elsewhere in the city, said Bussey. The tentative date is March 11.
In order to host the dinners and make contact with every person in attendance, Hernblad said they will be looking for between 80 and 100 volunteers.
"If you look back to 2009, the city printed a report card, at that time there was over 900 unique individuals that were accessing the shelters alone and that doesn't include any that are couch-surfing and things like that," said Hernblad.
"We're expecting a large number."
The point-in-time count is being held with funding from the Federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS), which is administered by the CAB.
"As the recipients of the HPS funding for our community we have to establish a baseline," said Hernblad.
"Between this and also doing surveys in the shelters at the same time, hopefully it's going to give us a thorough count of the homeless population."
With this information, she said the city hopes to determine the breadth of services required and where there are currently gaps.
Training will be provided for all volunteers on the point-in-time count, and Bussey said they would be working in partnership with local organizations already working with the homeless.
"If we know who we're working with and who we're going to support, then this can be successful," said Bussey.
"If we don't know our clientele, how can we help?"
The Community Advisory Board on Homelessness was established last April, and consists of representatives from the city, the territorial government, and various organizations including business, medical, youth, aboriginal and persons with disabilities.