Federally-run homeless count facing data gaps as big cities opt out

OTTAWA - Some of Canada's biggest cities have chosen to opt out of a federally run count of homeless people, resulting in what some experts predict will be an incomplete picture of the national poverty problem.

See Full Article

The decision by places like Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, among others, to not join in the federal initiative could make it more difficult for the federal Liberals to create a promised anti-poverty strategy.

The government was negotiating an agreement with Quebec to have cities in that province take part in the count, but for now the national effort won't reach into Quebec.

Many cities have never done a 24-hour homeless survey, known as a point-in-time count, which is why the federal government decided last year to try and co-ordinate a national census of those using shelters and living on the street.

Those cities that do a count use different methodologies, making it sometimes difficult to compare results on a national scale.

The previous Conservative government was warned seven months ago about potential shortcomings in data from the point-in-time count after a meeting with 49 municipalities when the details of the initiative were first unveiled. During that meeting, cities initially voiced concerns about the plan to do the count in late January - a time frame the government expanded to run now until the end of April.

A May 2015 briefing note from Conservative MP Candice Bergen, who was minister of state for social development at the time, says the decision by some cities to do their own count would "limit the ability to generate meaningful results" from the national survey.

Getting 30 communities on board with the count will at least give some like York Region, which has never done a point-in-time count before, a baseline to work from and track progress over time, said Pedro Barata, vice-president of communications and public affairs with the United Way of Toronto and York Region.

As long as the questions and methodology aren't wildly different, there may be ways to compare results on a national scale, Barata said.

The point-in-time count is only a snapshot in time of those in shelters and those living on the street and won't capture anyone who has found temporary lodging, for example, or those who spend half their income or more on housing.

Darlene O'Leary, socioeconomic policy analyst with Citizens for Public Justice, said missing some of the country's biggest cities will mean the federal government isn't getting a full picture.

Toronto won't be taking part in the count because it is planning a locally organized count next year. The head of the Alberta agency that oversees counts in seven cities in that province told the CBC they opted out of the federal count over concerns about the quality of data.

Metro Vancouver, which includes 21 communities, will do its next detailed point-in-time count in 2017. The City of Vancouver is doing a smaller count this year in March, which is why it originally decided against joining the federal count, said Celine Malboules, senior planner in the city's housing policy and projects department.

"For us, it's about comparative data. So over the years if we all of a sudden switch the date to January that's going to have an impact," she said.

Malboules said city officials are going to see if they can piggyback on the federally run project and "feed into the national results."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Texas Republican won't cast electoral college vote for Trump

    World News CBC News
    A Republican member of the Electoral College from Texas said Monday that he won't cast one of his state's 38 electoral votes for Donald Trump because "I am here to elect a president, not a king. Source
  • Could Dakota Access pipeline move after permit denial?

    World News CTV News
    OMAHA, Neb. - The Army's refusal to grant a permit for the Dakota Access oil pipeline to cross beneath the Missouri River has focused more attention on alternative routes, but several other options already have been considered and rejected as being more risky and expensive. Source
  • Cuba starts return to normal as mourning for Castro ends

    World News CTV News
    HAVANA -- Music is playing in the streets again. Tourists are sipping mojitos at sidewalk cafes. Flags are flapping at full staff. After nine days of national mourning for Fidel Castro, Cuba is slowly returning to noisy, boisterous normality. Source
  • Canada needs 'defined model' of universal pharmacare, citizen panel urges

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada needs a comprehensive system of universal drug coverage to eliminate variations between the provinces and territories, a citizen-driven panel looking at the idea of national pharmacare recommends. The Citizens' Reference Panel on Pharmacare in Canada — comprised of 35 volunteers randomly selected from across Canada, similar to a coroner's jury — met in Ottawa for five days and heard from 20 experts to produce a report on the issue. Source
  • Man beat girl to death with rock

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A Manitoba man convicted of murdering a cognitively challenged girl while still a teen has been ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence in prison. The now 22-year-old man was just 16 when he bludgeoned the 14-year-old Wabowden girl to death. Source
  • 11 trapped in China's latest coal mine accident

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - A gas explosion has trapped 11 Chinese coal miners underground, in the latest in a string of deadly accidents striking the industry after 53 miners were killed in two similar blasts last week. Source
  • Families could pay up to $420 more for food in 2017, report finds

    Canada News CBC News
    The average Canadian family may need to dish out as much as $420 more for food next year — and consumers could have president-elect Donald Trump to thank for part of the price bump, the lead author of a new report says. Source
  • Trump's Taiwan call could disrupt 'very calibrated dance' between U.S., China

    World News CBC News
    A phone call and a diplomatic reset? It's not ever quite that simple when it comes to relations between America, China and Taiwan. Handled the wrong way and it can get downright hostile. More than two decades before U.S. Source
  • Trump signals tougher China policy, possibly by accident

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Whether by accident or design, President-elect Donald Trump is signalling a tougher American policy toward China, sparking warnings from both the outgoing Obama administration and Beijing. On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said progress with the Chinese could be "undermined" by a flare-up over the sovereignty of Taiwan, the self-governing island the U.S. Source
  • Edmonton dog breeding operation shut down

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A man and woman are charged after dozens of dogs at a local breeding operation were found suffering in horrific conditions, says the Edmonton Humane Society (EHS). “I’ve been here six years now in the animal protection department and this is the worst one I’ve seen for the number of animals confined to these spaces,” said peace officer B.Grey, supervisor of Animal Protection Services with the Edmonton Humane Society. Source