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Simcoe County homelessness numbers soaring according to new data

During a count taken in January, 722 people were homeless county-wide, 6% of which were in South Georgian Bay
2022-01-09 Homeless 2
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The number of people experiencing homelessness in Simcoe County is hitting record numbers, according to new data being released by the County of Simcoe.

Preliminary data is being released this week from the 2022 homelessness enumeration, which was done through the County of Simcoe in collaboration with the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness. The enumeration, which was done as a point-in-time count, was done from Jan. 23 to 25 this year.

It counted 441 surveys completed and 722 people experiencing homelessness on Jan. 23 – the highest number ever recorded as part of the county’s enumeration process.

“Preliminary analysis indicates a number of factors contributing to the high count, including greater need in the community, method of data collection and participation by agencies and survey interviewers who are experienced in the enumeration process,” noted Irena Pozgaj-Jones, program supervisor of community services with the county, in her report to County of Simcoe councillors.

While the enumeration was originally scheduled for November 2021, due to a surge in COVID-19 cases at the time, the County of Simcoe was granted an extension to complete enumeration by January 2022.

In the 2022 count, 42 agencies across Simcoe County participated.

Of the 441 individuals who completed surveys, 61 per cent were sheltered, 35 per cent were provisionally accommodated and four per cent were unsheltered or in an unknown location.

About 71 per cent were single, 19 per cent were single with children, six per cent were couples, and four per cent were couples with children.

The geographic breakdown counted 50 per cent in Barrie, 19 per cent in North Simcoe, 16 per cent in Orillia and area, eight per cent in South Simcoe, six per cent in South Georgian Bay and two per cent from outside of Simcoe County, or declined to answer.

The age breakdown showed 69 per cent adults (25 to 54), 20 per cent seniors (55+) and 11 per cent youth (16 to 24).

Fifty-three per cent identified as male, 44 per cent identified as female and two per cent were listed as additional respondents.

Those surveyed were also asked why they were experiencing homelessness. The survey allowed more than one reason per person. They were as follows:

  • 73 per cent of respondents listed a mental-health issue as their main reason for experiencing homelessness,
  • 70 per cent said they were chronically homeless,
  • 61 per cent cited substance abuse,
  • 53 per cent said housing/financial issues,
  • 41 per cent said interpersonal/family issues,
  • 33 per cent said health/corrections, 30 per cent said Indigenous status,
  • 15 per cent said housing loss due to COVID-19,
  • and five per cent said other.

The County of Simcoe has completed a homelessness enumeration count every two years since 2016.

By comparison, in 2016, 292 surveys were completed, with 292 people found to be experiencing homelessness.

In 2018 (study done in April), 488 surveys were completed, with 697 people found to be experiencing homelessness.

In 2020 (study done in November), 377 surveys were completed, with 563 people found to be experiencing homelessness.

While some of the disparity in numbers can be attributed to the count occurring at different times of year as well as the pandemic making it difficult to administer the count, some of it also points to an overall increase in homelessness within the county.

During the enumeration process, every survey participant was provided with a resource card of local programs and services to help support their situation.

Twenty individuals were added to the county’s by-name list through the 2022 enumeration, resulting in the current list comprising more than 500 people.

The by-name list was established after the 2018 enumeration, as a method for service providers to track people experiencing homelessness as they navigate services across Simcoe County.

Results from all the Simcoe County homelessness enumerations are available here.

The staff report will be considered by County of Simcoe council’s committee of the whole at their March 22 meeting.

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. and is livestreamed on YouTube here.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 13 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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