It’s hard for a parent to wonder if their child is developing properly if they don’t know where they will be sleeping at night. To help combat the issue of homelessness, Leduc County FCSS will use a federal government grant to find out how many people are either homeless or facing homelessness in the community.
“We see homelessness in all programs we provide,” said Laurel Fitzsimonds, director of Leduc County Family and Community Support Services.
Using a broad definition of homelessness to include people living in shelters, living in their cars, and couch surfing FCSS staff will spend the next several months conducting an estimate to determine the number of homeless people and people at risk of becoming homeless in Leduc County, using a $119,500 grant from the Alberta Rural Development Network,
“It’s been there all along. It’s a very well hidden problem,” she said.
Working with the Leduc and District Food Bank, churches, Leduc Foundation and Calmar, Warburg and Thorsby FCSS, Fitzsimonds said they are hoping to come up with a more definitive number then they currently have now.
Fitzsimonds estimate between one and three per cent of Leduc County’s population is homeless, which amounts to between 200 and 600 people.
“Will we find them all? Will we help them all? No, I don’t think so,” she said.
Once the estimate is complete, Fitzsimonds said they will look at putting these people in contact with available services and see if current services need to be expanded.
The reasons people face homelessness, she said, vary. They can include mental health issues, addictions or physical issues or violence in the home.
“If you’re hurt and can’t work, you can’t pay your rent,” she said.
Often a small problem can spiral into a bigger problem as people fall further and further behind and can’t find a way to stop it.
“This is not just people choosing not to work”, she said. “We need to go back and remove the barriers.”
Once the barriers to homelessness are addressed, Fitzsimonds said, the rest of the issues facing an individual or family can be addressed.
“We need to make sure they have a safe, warm roof over their head first.”
Fitzsimonds is also hoping the estimate will bring the issue into the public’s eye.
“Society doesn’t want to look at it because it makes them uncomfortable,” she said. “People assume things about the homeless and we need to take homelessness out of the realm of judgement.”
The estimate is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
“We’re very excited to have this opportunity. There’s a growing awareness around this issue and we want the public to understand this is not a choice,” she said. “Very few people choose to be homeless.”