County launching Rural Homelessness Estimation Project

The County of Grande Prairie is preparing to launch the Rural Homelessness Estimation
Project, in partnership with the towns of Beaverlodge, Wembley and Sexsmith and the
Village of Hythe.

“The purpose of the project is to establish who within our rural areas, are homeless or
are living at risk of homelessness,” said Lisa Watson, FCSS Child, Youth, Family and
Community Team Lead. “We will use the results of the study to generate conversation
and action around poverty and homelessness in the area.”

The County Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) department received a
$5,000 grant from the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) to lead the initiative,
which is intended to develop an estimate of how many individuals living in the five
municipalities meet the definition of homelessness.

According to the ARDN, there are four types of living conditions that will be included in the estimation, which can be defined as follows:
 - Unsheltered – people who are absolutely homeless, living on the street or in places not intended for human habitation
 - Emergency Sheltered – people who are staying in overnight shelters due to homelessness or family violence
 - Provisionally Accommodated – people living in temporary accommodations or in places that are not intended for long-term accommodation
 - At Risk of Homelessness – people who are not yet homeless but their current economic situation is precarious

The municipalities will work with local agencies to gather data about the individuals
accessing their services, from Monday, September 17 to October 17. Individuals will be
assigned with a unique identifier to avoid double-counting while protecting their
anonymity; individuals and families who fit into the categories also have the option to
self-report by connecting with one of the participating agencies. Once the data collection
is complete, County FCSS will tabulate the data and create a final report.

This unique approach was developed by ARDN to address the unique challenges
associated with estimating homelessness in rural communities. ARDN is supporting
similar estimation projects across the province to help develop an understanding and
increase awareness of the issue of rural homelessness.