2015 Point-In-Time Homelessness Count Saskatoon,...

For a PDF copy of the report, please email Joanne Hritzuk at cuisr.oncampus@usask.ca

The reality of homelessness in Canada persists throughout the country:
• 20% of Canadian renters spend more than half and 40% spend more than 30% of their income on shelter

• 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year

• Estimated 50,000 more represent “hidden homelessness”

• Homelessness costs the Canadian economy $7.05 billion a year

Efforts have increased, however, to address the homelessness issue through direct programming initiatives and support for research to document trends and experiences of homelessness. The third Point-in-Time (PIT) Homelessness Count, including an indoor and outdoor enumeration, a streets needs assessment, and public perception survey, was held in Saskatoon on June 22, 2015. The 2015 count built on the learning from counts in Saskatoon in 2008 and 2012, while adapting to the requirements of Employment and Social Development Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy Directives 2014-2019. The PIT count, using a “snap shot” approach to collect the data, aimed to identify chronically homeless (individuals who are currently homeless and have been homeless for six months or more in the past year) and episodically homeless (individuals who are currently homeless and have experienced three or more episodes of homelessness in the past year).

In addition to analyzing the size and composition of chronically and episodically homelessness for both individuals and families, the PIT count also examined at-risk groups and sub-populations to establish a better understanding of the trends among homeless populations and determine appropriate programs and services according to needs. To produce as comprehensive and multi-faceted a picture of homelessness in Saskatoon as possible, the count included these new features:
• Surveyed all people encountered on count day about perceptions of and attitudes to homelessness
• Expanded enumeration to include “hidden homeless,” the provisionally accommodated or “couch surfers” without immediate prospect of permanent housing
• Added demographic and other information (immigration status, disabilities, accessibility and barriers to services, and orientation to systems to find housing)

Count Results
A total of 450 people were counted as without permanent shelter, including 45 children:
• 58 adults and 16 children were counted or reported in the outdoor survey
• 112 adults and 7 children were counted in the indoor survey conducted within collaborating shelters and transitional houses
• 235 adults and 22 children were reported staying in four participating shelters or transitional houses by the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS)

Street Needs Assessment Results
Respondent Demographics
The count indicated that the Saskatoon’s homelessness population continues to be disproportionately male (62%) and individuals self-identifying as Aboriginal (45%); while 45% of respondents were between the ages of 26 and 49 years. Most respondents (30%) were on social assistance for income (a further 10% reported disability benefits); 8% had formal employment, 7% reported informal employment, and 4% worked fulltime. Findings were similar for indoor and outdoor survey respondents except in the case of full-time employment where 4% of indoor respondents reported full-time employment compared to 2% of outdoor ones. Similarly, 14% of outdoor respondents reported panhandling as a source of income compared to only 5% of indoor respondents. Almost half (46%) of respondents reported being victims of physical violence while living without permanent shelter, and 45% of respondents reported living with foster families during their childhood, while only 11% lived with foster families until they were 18 years of age. Of those without permanent shelter, 10% identified as being a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Chronically and Episodically Homeless
Of those individuals experiencing homelessness, 47% were chronically homeless (without a permanent address for more than six months), while 47% were found to be episodically homeless or without shelter three times or more over the past year. More than a quarter (27%) were currently on a waiting list for housing (30% of indoor respondents and 21% of outdoor respondents). Forty percent of respondents had resided in Saskatoon for more than five years, a further 16% for 1-5 years, and 9% had lived in Saskatoon since birth, while 18% had been in the city for less than 6 months.

Barriers to Finding Housing
The primary reasons for difficulties in finding housing were these:
• Lack of income or the affordability of housing (60%)
• Health issues: 19% reporting physical health; 18%, mental health; and 18%, disability issues
• Overwhelming life stresses (25%)
• Discrimination (23%)
• Family situations (21%)
• Lack of trust in services and supports (21%)

Supports to Find Housing
In terms of finding housing, respondents identified these key supports:
• Health supports (mental health supports, 38%; health supports, 36%; harm reduction, 31%; and disability accessibility, 25%)
• More money (77%)
• Help finding affordable housing (73%)
• Transportation (62%)
• Help with housing applications (62%)
• Help with legal issues (43%)

Service Use Patterns
In the last six months, the most used services and resources were the following:
• Shelters (60%)
• Food bank (51%)
• Drop-ins (45%)
• Health clinics (45%)
• Hospital/ER (43%)
• Identification Services (29%)
• Police (28%)
• Detox (27%)

Comparing Results with 2008 and 2012 Counts
While it is important to acknowledge the limitations in comparing the findings with previous count findings in 2008 (228 adults and 32 children) and 2012 (368 adults and 11 children), given differences in research design and timing, different socio-economic conditions, and increased capacity in shelters and transitional housing as well as Housing First initiatives, the 2015 PIT count identified increased numbers of adults (405) and children (45) without permanent shelter, although proportionately more were housed in shelters and transitional homes (80%), hotels (2%), and friend’s house (8%) rather than sleeping outdoors (9%). In 2008, 16.9% were sleeping outdoors while 76.5% were housed in shelters, 2.7% in detox centre, 2.3 % in hotels, and 1.5 % in campground. In 2012, 19.5% were sleeping outdoors, 73.3% in shelters, and 7.2% sleeping with friends.

Sources of Income
Fewer respondents reported formal employment (8%) and full-time employment (4%) than in 2008 when 45% reported formal employment, and 70% of whom reported working fulltime. In 2012, only 10% reported formal employment, 13% of whom reported working full time. There was an increase of those relying on social assistance for income (30%) than in 2012 (26%). The 2015 count reported an increase in the number of veterans without permanent shelter (10%) compared with 2012 (4.3%), and an increase of those subject to physical violence while living outdoors (46%) compared with 38% in 2012.

Public Perceptions of Homelessness
Seriousness of Homelessness in Saskatoon
The 2015 PIT homelessness count included questions that surveyed public perceptions of homelessness in Saskatoon. The majority of the 429 surveyed (77%) rated the homelessness situation in Saskatoon as very serious (47%) or serious (30%), whether the respondent was housed or was without permanent housing. Similarly, those most impacted by homelessness were consistent across all respondents. Aboriginal people (12%), single parents (15%), and those with disabilities (28%), including mental health and addictions, were understood as the most affected by homelessness. When asked to list organizations that help those who experience homelessness, respondents listed these organizations:
• The Lighthouse (69%)
• Salvation Army (53%)
• YMCA/YWCA (34%)
• Friendship Inn (32%)
• Saskatoon Interval House (14%)
• Saskatoon Crisis Nursery (11%)
• McLeod House (10%)

Reasons for Homelessness
Showing significant consistency with the responses of those experiencing homelessness, respondents listed these main reasons for people experiencing homelessness:
• Lack of affordable housing (42%)
• Physical or mental health (40%)
• Lack of employment (32%)
• Discrimination (23%)
• Criminal record (20%)
• Lack of references (20%)
• Damage deposit (17%)

Actions to Reduce Homelessness
Suggestions to build more affordable housing (25%), employment opportunities (12%), additional shelters (16%), and offer more educational, mental health, addictions, and social supports (29%) were the key suggestions to address the problem of homelessness in Saskatoon.

Spence Gress, Cara and Isobel M. Findlay, Bill Holden, Stephen Wormith, Pamela Brotzel, Sana Rachel Sunny, Hannah Holden. (2015). 2015 Point-In-Time Homelessness Count Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Saskatoon: Community-University Institute for Social Research.