Edmonton Homeless Counts: 1999 to 2010 Trend Analysis (2010)

Edmonton Homeless Counts: 1999 to 2010 Trend Analysis (2010)

More than a decade of enumerating the number of homeless in the City of Edmonton provides an opportunity to examine how over-time changes in count numbers were influenced by a range of prevailing economic and policy conditions. The period of 1999 to 2010 spanned both economic boom and bust years with each presenting very different employment, income, population, and housing market situations. Policy approaches to homeless began within an era of retrenchment of supports, moved into building emergency shelters, and concluded with the current Housing First philosophy. Each of these broad underlying structural explanations for changes in the number of homeless are the focus of the trend analysis present in Section B. The report does not address the many other causes of homelessness (e.g., mental illness, domestic violence, addiction). There is, in any case, evidence from shelter intake and general population surveys to suggest that the inability to afford housing now takes precedence as the main cause of homelessness, rather than poor mental health and/or addictions.

The methods used to conduct the Edmonton Homeless Counts must themselves also be scrutinized to first ascertain the extent to which they are deemed to be reliable and second to determine if methodological deviations might explain the over-time trends in homeless numbers. It is generally acknowledged that homeless counts under-represent the number of homeless. Part of this stems from utilizing narrow definitions of homelessness that exclude those at risk or those living in sub-standard housing conditions and from the inherent invisibility and mobility of being homeless that results in under-counting couch-surfers and those reluctant to use services and supports. At the same time, one of the most difficult methodological challenges in conducting homeless counts is to avoid enumerating the same individual more than once. These issues, as well as variations in count methodologies and in the number of absolute versus sheltered homeless, are examined in Section C of the report.

ORGANIZATION: Homeward Trust - Edmonton
PUBLICATION DATE: 2010
LOCATION: Edmonton, AB, Canada