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PIT Survey: Largest barrier identified for homeless is lack of access to affordable rental housing

Brendan Quinn
By Brendan Quinn
April 14th, 2016

More than 50 volunteers scoured the streets of the Heritage City Wednesday to conduct Nelson’s first-ever Homeless Point-in-Time (PIT) Count and Survey in participation with the Nelson Committee on Homelessness (NCOH).

People using or living in shelters and transitional housing were surveyed Tuesday night, and on Wednesday volunteers were all over Nelson conducting the survey and chatting with residents on the streets.

The NCOH describes the examination as “a snapshot of people’s housing situation within a 24-hour period.”

While the hard numbers and analytics won’t be processed completely until June, but Ann Harvey of the NCOH said the organization should have some solid numbers by next week.

“We’ve had contact with over 300 people that were screened and we’ve had over 70 surveys filled out; which means that’s over 70 people that have some experience of homelessness issues,” Harvey said in an interview with The Nelson Daily.

“We haven’t done any analysis on it yet or anything but we’ll have a few firmer figures early next week and we’ll have a full analysis, we’ll do a report back to the community at the end of June.”

The volunteers searched areas in and around Nelson including the lakeshore areas from the Orange Bridge to the far end of the dog walk by the Airport, the Mall area, all of downtown and a bit of Uphill, the Railtown area and Cottonwood Park, according to an NCOH press release.

The volunteers hit these areas at particular times of the day to ensure an excellent cross-section of the population and avoid duplication. Several groups of volunteers also went to eight service provider sites to interview and survey people using those locations that day.

The information gathered will be reviewed for duplicate entries and clarity and will then be examined and evaluated. 

Once this process is complete, the relevant statistics and information will be shared with funders, service providers, and municipal, provincial and federal levels of government to help increase the knowledge and awareness of people in these situations.

As for now, while it is a bit early to nail down the specifics, the survey has indicated several points of information that stood out.

According to the survey, the largest barrier identified was the lack of access to affordable rental housing. Mental and physical health issues were prevalent in many of those interviews, and most indicated that their first experience with homelessness began at a young age.

In what might be the most surprising reveal of the survey, especially when one considers Nelson’s reputation as a way-point and hotspot for travelers moving east to west, the majority of people interviewed were in fact local residents who had lived here for a year or longer.

Harvey expressed her appreciation for the hard work and efforts of the volunteers, praising their big hearts and empathy for those living in dire housing situations.

She also expressed her gratitude the people who participated in the survey; without their willingness to share their story this survey would not have been possible.

“I would like to thank all of the incredible volunteers for their contribution and help to conduct this Count and Survey,” said Harvey.

“…With an even bigger thank you to the people who agreed to be surveyed – who shared personal information, experiences and details of their living situations. 

“They have helped to shine a brighter light on the nature and extent of homelessness issues in Nelson and what could help to address them.”

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