Is homelessness hiding in Drumheller? That’s the question being asked by a new survey launching this fall to get an understanding of the nature and extent of homelessness in the valley.
Family and Community Support Services and partner organizations are running a rural homelessness estimation count in Drumheller as part of a province-wide initiative starting October 1. These organizations are looking to hear from those dealing with unstable living situations to voice their experiences in order to collect data on homelessness in Drumheller.
But those working on front lines in community support roles already know people here face the realities of homelessness.
“It’s as much of an issue here as it is anywhere else, but it tends to be hidden,” said FCSS coordinator April Harrison. “In the city it’s a very visual problem, which is terrible to see but in some ways it’s easier to deal with because you can see the problem. That is one of the key reasons of undertaking this study, to understand where homelessness exists in our community.”
When people think about homelessness they often imagine people sleeping rough on the streets, but the reality is there are a number of different living situations people experience which could be classified as homelessness or at-risk of homelessness. Trouble at home with a spouse or family member may cause someone to be couchsurfing, someone may be sleeping in their car due to domestic violence, or someone may be unable to pay rent and be at risk of homelessness due to their finances.
“You’d be shocked how many are in what we call ‘housing insecure situations’ here,” says Salvation Army family community services coordinator Janessa McAuley. “(The survey) allows people to give their voice. The more awareness there is the less resistance or stigma there is over people going through this.”
While homelessness is a well understood issue in major centres like Calgary, data is currently limited for homelessness in rural and remote areas of Alberta. The survey is a part of a province-wide initiative to get better data on the problem, with 21 rural/remote communities across Alberta participating in the project, making it one of the largest initiative of its kind ever completed. A Homelessness Task Force has been established in Drumheller to promote the campaign and lead the estimation. The task force will also review the results and develop an action plan to address homelessness as it appears in Drumheller.
The anonymous survey will be available from October 1 to October 30 and available at the Salvation Army (which includes a free lunch on Thursdays at noon), Alberta Supports, AHS Disability Services, Big Country Victim Services, Drumheller Public Library, Drumheller Family Literacy, the RCMP detachment, Drumheller FCSS at town hall, the FCSS Seniors Office, Growing Opportunities, MH Enterprises, and the Wheatland Crisis Society. It takes about 10 minutes to complete, is anonymous and confidential. The survey is a joint partnership between FCSS and the Alberta Rural Development Network.