This week, End Homelessness St. John’s (EHSJ) released the results of Everyone Counts, the province’s first homeless Point-in-Time (PiT) count.

The initiative counted the number of people experiencing homelessness in St. John’s on a single night and conducted a weeklong survey with youth (aged 16-24) experiencing homelessness in the city.

EHSJ, its partners, and over 100 trained volunteers found that on November 30th, 2016 at least 166 people were experiencing homelessness in St. John’s, including 38 youth. The organization estimates that approximately 800 people experience homelessness in St. John’s annually.

Certain Demographics “of Greatest Concern”

The count found that people experiencing homelessness in the city included a wide range of ages, education levels, and socio-economic backgrounds. However, the report states,” The high representation of Indigenous people, of those who identify as part of the LGBTQ2S community, and those who had involvement with Child Protection Services are of great concern.”

Understanding Causes of Homelessness Could Curb It

The survey found that for the majority of people surveyed (95.2%), homelessness was not a choice, most people would prefer to have permanent housing but faced barriers like low or no income, high rent, mental health issues and addiction.

The PiT Count gave people experiencing homelessness an opportunity to share their stories and explain what resources they need to attain stable housing.

The Everyone Counts report states that most people experiencing homelessness in St. John’s cited the need for support services to address the challenges that prevent them from securing permanent, stable housing. Those services include supports like social workers, housing officers, lawyers, and trauma specialists.

Many people surveyed also cited a need for services relating to mental health, employment, education, and addiction or substance use.

EHSJ’s Housing First Approach

EHSJ advocates for a Housing First approach to combating homelessness.

A Housing First model focuses on moving people from homelessness into housing as quickly as possible and then providing the supports needed to maintain housing. As opposed to expecting people to resolve issues (like low income, or mental illness and addiction) that contribute to their housing-instability while they are experiencing homelessness.

The Housing First philosophy recognizes housing as a human right and suggests that recovery should begin with stable housing.

“Using the knowledge obtained in this Count (and our next count in Spring 2018), we will continue to work with people with lived experience of homelessness, our community partners, and government (federal, provincial and municipal) to set priorities for action for long-term solutions to homelessness in St. John’s.” Wrote Shawn Skinner, Chair of EHSJ.

2014-2019 Community Plan Establishes List of Priorities

End Homelessness St. John’s have created a 2014-2019 St. John’s Community Plan to End Homelessness.

They have established a list of priorities that includes implementing a more coordinated approach to housing and supports in the city according to the Housing First model.

They also want to see the development of a wide range of housing and support options to meet the diverse needs of people experiencing homelessness. This means supporting efforts to create and maintain affordable housing and increasing the number of Housing First programs in the city.

“…I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to everyone who participated in the survey and shared their experiences with us. We are committed to working with you and for you as we implement our plan and work toward ending homelessness in St. John’s” Skinner wrote.