Ian (he didn’t want to share his last name) has been living outside in Port Alberni for the past seven years and getting by on food donations from the food bank as well as ‘binning’—scrounging for metal pieces like the wire in his hands (worth about $3, he says) from a construction dumpster. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Port Alberni to host second homeless count

2018 homeless count will be part of a province-wide initiative

Port Alberni will be one of several communities hosting a homeless count in April as part of a province-wide initiative through BC Housing and the Homelessness Association of BC.

Alberni will be one of 9-12 communities providing information on the estimated number, key demographics and service needs of those experiencing homelessness.

This is the second time Port Alberni has hosted a homeless count, but the first time the community has worked in partnership with the province.

“The purpose of this is to ensure that we have really good data for all of BC,” said coordinator Marcie DeWitt. “Which BC Housing can use in order to make some decisions around housing and policy.”

“Homeless,” for the purpose of this count, includes people who do not have a place of their own where they can expect to stay for more than 30 days, and if they do not pay rent.

This way, said DeWitt, they can count both the “sheltered,” who are living in shelters, transition houses or health facilities, as well as the “unsheltered” homeless, who are living outside or couch surfing.

The count will take place in Port Alberni on April 10-11. A night count will take place in the evening of April 10, and will get a head count of those who are in jails, hospitals, detox facilities, transition houses and shelters.

The day count, on April 11, will involve dropsites and “magnet events” in order to survey people at particular locations.

Seven different dropsites have already been identified, working in partnership with different agencies across the community.

“The intent of magnet events is to really get people all to one place,” DeWitt explained.

BC Housing will be partnering with the Friendship Centre to offer a Wellness Day and a community dinner, which De Witt says will draw very good crowds.

“Especially from the more vulnerable in our community,” she added.

Volunteers will be needed leading up to and on the day of the count. Information on how to volunteer will be available soon at hsa-bc.ca.

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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