The United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) has put together its annual report counting the numbers of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in the community.
According to the key findings of the Point in Time Homeless Count report, in 2021, 176 out of 207 people experiencing homelessness agreed to participate in an anonymous survey. Of those who participated in the survey, 80 per cent self-identified as experiencing mental health issues. An alarming number of the homeless population surveyed are Indigenous, accounting for 31 per cent of the total count.
“The numbers provided in the United Way’s Point in Time (PiT) Count are closely aligned to the numbers on the City’s By Name List. This understanding will assist us with future planning to meet the needs of the homeless population in our community,” the City of Kingston said with regard to the study.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PiT count for 2020 got delayed and was conducted in April this year. The homeless count activity depends on the deployment of volunteers who work on face-to-face surveys with individuals facing homelessness.
“These results help us identify trends and allow us to plan, enhance, and expand programs to support these individuals. The results will also help inform planning and policy decisions among various organizations and governments going forward,” said Bhavana Varma, President, and CEO of the United Way KFL&A.
PiT Counts are funded by the federal government’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy and attempt to provide the comprehensive nature of homelessness in different communities. In Kingston, the United Way is responsible for coordinating the PiT Count with partners like the City of Kingston and other community agencies.
The count results show the numbers, and the different situations and contexts of every individual’s path to experiencing homelessness. Additionally, United Way has initiated a campaign, Path Home Kingston, that highlights the context of experiences of homeless individuals.
“The Path Home Kingston initiative shows that it’s not possible to see the challenges an individual has faced or what someone’s overcome at a glance,” said Varma.
Path Home Kingston’s website also has a full range of resources for people who need help and those who want to help homeless people, the United Way explained.
“We really appreciate the efforts of our local agencies, healthcare partners, and local institutions assisting in this count,” said Varma.
The City of Kingston is also planning to create sleeping cabins to temporarily house homeless individuals in the coming winter months, addressing the increasing need for capacity during the pandemic.