Survey will ID housing gaps

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

Peace River is taking part in a new survey to find out who needs housing.

The survey is being administered by Town of Peace River Family and Community Support Services [FCSS] and local service providers including food banks, Alberta Works, the Horizon Learning Centre, and more.

The survey will help identify the type and the number of homes and the kind of services and resources needed by people in the community. Data collected from the project will help local service providers better understand and address any gaps.

Resident feedback started being collected on Oct. 1. The survey will run until Oct. 31. It is available online or as a physical paper survey.

Town of Peace River participation is funded in part through the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home program, administered through the Alberta Rural Development Network.

There are 26 other rural communities also taking part.

Peace River’s participation this year follows a 2018 pioneer project that covered 20 communities throughout rural Alberta with a total population of 291,531 [StatsCan 2016]…The project surveyed 1,771 individuals on location at 185 service providers, and 1,098 of those surveyed said they did not have stable housing and/or they were at-risk of losing their housing.

Respondents from the first survey identified “low income”, “[inability] to pay rent/mortgage”, “inadequate housing”, and “job loss” as the top reasons why their housing situation was unstable.

“Two years ago this estimation was run through our service agencies,” says Marc Boychuk, of I Care. “We collected some very important data on how to direct our efforts to end homelessness. Peace River had the largest amount of people sleeping outside. We then opened an overnight shelter.”

After previously operating out of the Catholic Conference Centre, the Peace River Out of the Cold Shelter that Boychuk helped set up and which also got support from the local women’s shelter, has been moved to the Sagitawa Friendship Centre. The Out of the Cold shelter now has four full time staff.

Boychuk says there are plans for a permanent shelter. Meanwhile, four previous shelter users from last year now have a home, a true success story.

Boychuk says he is very pleased to see FCSS lead the new estimation and continue to collaborate with local service agencies.

“Until you have a clear idea of what is happening we can not move against it. Connecting with the people and finding out what the needs are, is a crucial and vital need to help those experiencing homelessness and housing instability.”

The new data is especially important since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused evictions and job losses, and is likely increasing the inequities that put people at risk of homelessness.

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