There are more than 250 people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the Drayton Valley area according to the Rural Development Network’s study on homelessness in the community.

In March the RDN reached out to Brighter Futures, Warming Hearts, the Primary Care Network, FCSS, and the Family Resources Network, asking if they could hand out an optional survey to their clients. They also had an open link survey available. Emma Wallace, who presented the findings to town council says that some people who fall under the definition of homelessness don’t consider themselves to be in that situation.

The survey results showed there are 267 homeless people in the community according to the Canadian Observatory of Homelessness definition of homelessness.

Each of these community members falls under one of four categories by the definition: Unsheltered, Emergency Sheltered, Provisionally Accommodated, At Risk of Homelessness.

There are 28 unsheltered individuals who have no homes and are living on the streets. Drayton has 25 emergency sheltered people, who are staying in overnight shelters or those who are in shelters due to family violence. Eighty-three residents are provisionally accommodated, meaning they are couch surfing, living in abandoned buildings, or some other shelter not meant to be a home.

The majority of the people, at 140, are at risk of homelessness. This means if they miss the rent one more time, they could lose their house. It also includes individuals who are living with domestic violence, those with addictions, and other mental health problems.

Wallace says it’s important to remember that the individuals who fall under those definitions often cycle through them all several times. There may not be as many who are living on the street one day, but that number could change every day.

She also pointed out that the survey results show that the common belief that homelessness is due to someone not wanting to get a job is not always accurate.

Of the 267 homeless individuals in Drayton, 47 percent are employed. Some are casual, others are part time, but most, 68 percent, are employed full-time. They are not all living below the poverty line, either. Only 44 percent of employed individuals made $30,000 or less in 2022. 

“That’s high compared to other rural communities,” says Wallace. She says this shows that there are many factors that can cause homelessness, such as lay-offs, mental health issues, or unstable relationships.

According to the respondents, the top reasons for being homeless were low wages that made affording rent or mortgages difficult, and mental health issues.

As part of the survey, individuals were also asked to rate what their biggest challenges were as well as the areas where the Town was doing well.

A large majority of residents indicated that public transportation was a significant issue in the community. They also said there is not enough accessible and affordable housing.

However, many of those surveyed had positive things to say about the community, which Wallace says is surprising because it’s not very common.

Many individuals are happy with the services that they can access, however, they feel there needs to be more services offered than the Town currently has.

Deputy Mayor Amila Gammana says the Town has been considering public transportation in the community, but are not certain of what it will look like at this point. He also says they could consider approaching the province about considering provincewide public transportation so people can access appointments in other communities.

By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 16, 2023 at 10:00

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Drayton Valley, Alberta

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