Homeless count: “Where will you spend the night?”

A first one-time count of people living in homelessness was conducted Tuesday night in Sherbrooke. Ten teams of volunteers have traveled the streets of the sectors previously targeted by local stakeholders to address passersby.
“All the people we meet on the streets and sidewalks are approached. If they do not have a permanent home, they are offered anonymous response to a questionnaire, all on a voluntary basis. The results will be used to better identify the needs of people experiencing homelessness and to tailor services and resources based on their responses. We are talking about a count of visible homelessness. In a subsequent step, hidden homelessness will be better documented, for example a person who is temporarily housed at a friend’s house “, summarizes Marie-France Thibeault of the CIUSSS Eastern Townships CHUS Communications Department.

Read also: Enumeration of homeless people: “A stigmatizing experience”

For the external count Everyone counts , a team of volunteers was positioned near the Home Poirier, another near the Source-Soleil Heart Inn and eight other teams surveyed the streets between 6 pm and 10 pm from the city center and the east of the city.

Thirty housing resources located in the territory also participated in the activity by asking their beneficiaries to answer the questionnaire.

“For the Sherbrooke region, it’s a first. The results of the count will serve as a reference. 2018 will be year one, “says Thibeault.

The same exercise was conducted simultaneously in 11 regions of Quebec, namely in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Capitale-Nationale, Mauricie and Center-du-Québec regions, Estrie, Montreal, Outaouais, Chaudière-Appalaches, Laval, Lanaudière, Laurentians and Montérégie.

The enumeration is part of a comprehensive approach that also includes components dealing with hidden homelessness, the use of resources and the deepening of knowledge about homeless people. The data collected will provide a second portrait of homelessness in Quebec, which will be made public in March 2020. A first portrait was drawn up in 2014. The region contributed to the development of this portrait without physical enumeration. would have been done.

The questionnaire contains 16 questions. “The first 14 questions are the same across Canada, with more than 60 communities participating in the pan-Canadian approach. The last two questions are specifically asked in Quebec, “notes Michelle Morin, Coordinator of Volunteers for Enumeration.

When the enumeration was announced by the Quebec government in March, members of the Sherbrooke Roaming Table (TIS) expressed concern about the enumeration of homeless persons, fearing that the exercise would stigmatize this already vulnerable population.

“In my experience, it’s going very well. Everything is done with respect and people are very generous with their story and I have never experienced an unfortunate situation. There’s always a story behind each person and each one counts, “reassured volunteer Nancy Baker, who has been involved in numerous counts of people living in homelessness, including Vancouver, before the countdown. and Winnipeg.

TIS was also concerned that such a one-time count has limitations that may exclude people who are not experiencing a homeless episode at the time of the count, and overrepresent those in a situation chronic homelessness.

“The results of the count give an estimate only of the number of people in visible homelessness. And this is one of several information that will be considered, “say Ms. Morin and Ms. Baker.

TICKET / “Where will you spend the night?” The question surprised some Sherbrooke residents who were walking Tuesday night in the streets of downtown and surrounding areas. Those who answered that they would sleep in their apartment could continue their journey. To the others, the thirty or so volunteers who were in charge of counting the homeless proposed to participate in a questionnaire aimed at better helping them, to adjust the services to their needs.

The Tribune participated in the count. The author of these lines and a photographer walked out to meet people accompanied by Nancy Baker, an experienced volunteer who participated in several spot counts across Canada and worked on the methodology behind the process.

In the area assigned to us, on the sidewalks of Aberdeen, Laurier, Brooks, Alexandre, Olivier, Fédéral and Galt West Streets, about 25 people were crossed and approached. A fortnight was a tenant of an apartment. A 20-year-old was living with his parents. Two had already responded to other volunteers. Six were in a hurry or simply refused to answer.

Among these people in a hurry, two young men in their early twenties said they were “practically homeless” because they lived in a shelter. A little further, a 24-year-old woman admitted that she had been homeless for about a year, three years ago. Today, although she works, she lives with four roommates to “feed me and feed my dogs”. “Rents are expensive. It’s hard to arrive. ”

A few steps further, a young man, in his twenties too, said, without really stopping walking, that he had lived five years in a situation of homelessness. Tonight he would be sleeping with his parents, he thought. But when my volunteer partner asked him if he could stay with his parents for an indefinite period of time, as the questionnaire asked, he replied without insurance: “let’s say”.

On the four-kilometer journey of our team, no itinerant person came to the end of the questionnaire. How will the data collected on these young people who are too busy or not interested in the questionnaire be compiled? No idea. But in this march, a statement is obvious. The precarious status of some people encountered. Tenants, yes. Some have roofs, but flowing roofs. “And many multiply roofs. It is not uncommon to meet people who say they have a roof, but who change their roof 15 or 20 times in a year, “notes Charles Coulombe, Head of Intersectoral Coordination on Homelessness at the CIUSSS of Estrie-CHUS.

A team of volunteers met a couple of homeless people who had arrived in Sherbrooke for the summer season, the same day, from Quebec. A directory containing the addresses of accessible resources was given to them.

And then, under this bridge, right next to the Partage St-François, blankets and clothes were hanging out. The occupant (s) of this improvised bedroom was absent. We could not ask him the 16 questions of the survey. On the other hand, we met a woman and a man, neighbors, probably friends. The first came out of a “year of light and rest” during which she sometimes slept two weeks online. ” It’s better. Do not just stop at the tests. My psychiatrist helps me. And the second, whose wife left two years ago, after 37 years of relationship. “I do not leave it. I’m bored. One day at a time. ”

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