About the Report
The Athabasca County Homelessness Estimation Project was part of the Alberta Rural Homelessness Estimation Project in the fall of 2018. The study was coordinated by the Family and Community Support Services Association of Alberta (FCSSAA), administered by the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN), and funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy.
What is homelessness?
For this project, homelessness was defined as the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing; or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. Individuals who are homeless may experience a range of physical living situations which include: Unsheltered, Emergency Sheltered, Provisionally Accommodated, and/or At Risk of Homelessness. A variety of factors may contribute to an individual finding themselves in this situation. It could be the result of systemic or societal barriers, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing, the individual household’s financial, mental, cognitive, behavioral or physical challenges, and/or racism and discrimination.
While homelessness is a known issue that affects people throughout the province, it is often hidden in rural communities. This survey was created to help communities gain a clearer picture of the number of homeless in their municipality, the underlying issues, and what resources are needed or are in place to meet the unique challenges of this vulnerable population.
Homelessness in our region
Our community has known locations where homeless people congregate. During the month of October 2018, several community agencies offered staff resources to conduct homeless counts in these known locations. In addition to providing the data included on the survey, this also served as an indicator to determine if these individuals were accessing any of our service agencies at the time of the count.
The Project aimed to learn more about the factors leading to homelessness in our area and how best to address them. The survey data also included current and past living situations, employment status and citizenship status. The study showed the reasons for housing instability in our community include disability, conflict, and low income. Partnership and community involvement is key when taking on this type of project, and the task force that developed from the partnering agencies and passionate community members continues to try to address the underlying causes of this situation.
In comparison to 20 communities across Alberta, Athabasca had a lower than average response rate. Only 0.3% of the population responded to the survey in 2018. This was a challenge faced across the province- the best response rate was 1.9% and the average response rate was 0.7%. The ARDN has addressed the reluctance to participate in the development of the 2nd edition titled “Housing and Service Needs Estimation Survey”. With perseverance and new knowledge of how to administer the data collection process we can hope for an improved response rate if the task force decides to participate in 2020.