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Grande Prairie looking to further refine 2018 homeless count

The City of Grande Prairie is trying to get an as accurate as possible number during this year’s homeless count. On April 11th, volunteers will canvass the city to find out how many people are sleeping in shelters, on the street or in vehicles, or couch surfing.

The biennial Point-In-Time Count in 2016 also included Grande Prairie residents in transitional housing, the QEII Hospital, treatment facilities, and corrections out of town, which will continue this year. Research and Evaluation Analyst Forrest McGregor says they’re looking to get an even better picture of the homeless community.

“We have added a few walking routes in new parts of the city that we hadn’t covered before, and we’ve refined our coverage of the locations so the data that’ll be collected is essentially just a lot more accurate than it was in the past.”

Key to the success of the count is a team of up to 75 volunteers that spend four to five hours surveying the people they come across in one night. McGregor says it’s a way for people to see the city from a different perspective.

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“People hear a lot about homelessness in the community and different issues surrounding it, and this is just a really good way to get a holistic, really close, personal look at what homelessness actually is like in Grande Prairie.”

Despite the wider scope, population growth, and a rise in the unemployment rate, 2016’s count showed a 25 per cent decline in the number of homeless people to 127. That count was done in October, while this year’s will line up with a nationwide count between March and April.

“In Grande Prairie we have the boom and bust economy,” McGregor explains. “That also comes into play in our Point-In-Time Count, so we see a bit of up and downs more than some other communities that don’t have that type of resource economy.”

This is the first time the city has been a part of a national count. Volunteer information and forms can be found online. The resulting data will be used as an outreach tool by local agencies.

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