A provincial homeless count in Port Alberni has been rescheduled to April 7, 2021.
In 2020, there were 16 homeless counts planned in communities across B.C. Although most municipalities were able to complete their counts in 2020, some communities—including Port Alberni—had to postpone their events due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and accompanying provincial health office restrictions.
The last homeless count in Port Alberni took place in 2018 and recorded 147 people in the community experiencing homelessness. Of those 147 people, only 43 percent were “sheltered,” meaning the majority were living outside rather than staying in an emergency shelter.
Coordinator Marcie DeWitt told Port Alberni city council on March 8 that she believes the number of people experiencing homelessness in Port Alberni has increased since 2018.
“We know that there is a significant lack of affordable housing in most communities across B.C.,” said DeWitt. “I think that with the challenges of the past year, that has certainly been amplified. We are definitely anticipating a rise.”
The count will take place over 24 hours and will start with a night count on April 6, surveying people in shelters (including jails and hospitals). A daytime count will take place the next day, surveying people at dropsites—such as the Bread of Life warming centre and Salvation Army’s mobile kitchen truck.
Port Alberni has also been selected as a “pilot site” for an extended five-day count, which means organizers will be collecting additional surveys for five days following the 24-hour count.
“That will allow us to capture anybody who hasn’t been seen in that 24-hour period,” said DeWitt.
Unlike previous years, the 2021 homeless count will not include volunteers, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We will be relying on outreach workers in the region,” said DeWitt.
Some of these outreach workers include the RCMP, Port Alberni Shelter Society, Canadian Mental Health Association, Bread of Life, Kuu-us Crisis Line Society, the Salvation Army and the Port Alberni Friendship Centre.