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City receives homelessness funding

Funding is planned for hotel room rentals, a warming centre in winter, and expanding shelter for women and children fleeing violence
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Fort St. John has received $446,775 in federal and provincial funding to provide "urgent temporary solutions" to the city's homelessness problem.

Homelessness in the city is up 25% from 2018, according to the latest statistics, and the city said earlier this year that the funding is planned for hotel room rentals, a warming centre in winter, and more units and staffing to expand existing shelter for women and children fleeing violence.

“These grants will provide local governments with a much-needed boost to continue vital services that were strained because of the pandemic, said Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne.

There were at least 76 people who were homeless in March 2020 when the citywide count was completed by the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society.

Of those counted, the majority were men, and 42% had been homeless for more than a year.

Another 66% reported two or more health conditions, with the majority struggling with addiction (62%), as well as mental illness (49%), a physical disability (49%), or a learning disability (32%).

Someone is experiencing homelessness if they don't have a place of their own where they pay rent and can expect to stay for at least 30 days.

Thirty-five of those who were counted, or 46%, were sheltered, while most who had no shelter at all were either couch surfacing (36%), living in a makeshift shelter such as a tent (22%), or living outside (15%).

Just over half of those surveyed had been living in Fort St. John for 10 years or more, and a quarter of them were seniors 55 years or older.

Primary reasons for housing loss were income (28%), conflict with a partner (23%), or substance abuse (16%).

When it comes to income, 59% of those surveyed were on some sort of income assistance or disability benefit. The majority are accessing food services, as well as employment and financial services.

Ten per cent of those who were counted were youth under the age of 25, with roughly half experiencing homelessness for the first time.

The majority of those surveyed, 81%, were men, while 57% of those surveyed identified as indigenous.

Earlier this year, the city proposed to partner with Treaty 8 nations as well as the Fort St. John Friendship Society and Fort St. John Native Housing Society.

“The hope is to have a Housing and Homelessness Task Force consisting of all the major stakeholders and partners to work together on the funded initiatives and have some sustainability planning so that initiatives aren’t just dropped once the funding is over after a year,” Community Services Director Karin Carlson wrote in a report to council.


Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca