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County looking to gauge homeless population

The County of Grande Prairie is trying to tackle homelessness in the area. They have received a $5000 grant from the Alberta Rural Development Network to conduct the Rural Homelessness Estimation Project.

FCSS Child, Youth, Family and Community Team Leader Lisa Watson says that the project will be used to find out how many people are homeless or on the verge of being homeless in the area.

“The purpose of the project is to establish who within our rural areas are homeless or are living at risk of homelessness. We will use the results of the study to generate conversation and action around poverty and homelessness in the area.”

The project will be taking place at agencies in the Towns of Beaverlodge, Wembley and Sexsmith, and the Village of Hyth that offer support and services to people in need. Watson says numbers will be tracked by a survey people will be asked to fill out when they first arrive.

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“The estimation itself is done by the individuals. When they come to an agency to access services for the first time they would be asked to fill out a survey.”

The project was developed by the ARDN as a way to address the challenges of estimating the homeless population in rural communities. Watson says the program is already taking place in urban cities but that it’s a bit of a different process of collecting data in a rural area.

“What Urban centers are doing is a point in time count which is administered usually over a day or two. With the rural homelessness estimation, it’s going to be done on over months span…rather than doing a one day count. Its a little bit harder in rural areas to do a point in time count because of the size of area we are covering.”

Once completed, Watson says the County and municipalities will move forward with an action plan based on the results of the project.

“We’ve established a task force of the agencies that are participating as well as the partnering municipalities and what we’ll do is take a look at the numbers and possibly move forward with an action plan or recommendations based on that report. ”

The project will be taking place from September 17 to October 17 and Watson hopes to have all the results in by early December.

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