June 15th, 2024

City’s homeless numbers have doubled since 2018


By Lethbridge Herald on December 8, 2022.

Bicycles sit among makeshift tents setup along a fence Wednesday afternoon near the Lethbridge Shelter and Stabilization Centre. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

More than 400 people were experiencing homelessness in the city as of late September, results of a survey show.

The 2022 Point-in-Time Count, using data collected from local service organizations and shelters, show there were 454 homeless here on Sept. 27.

The City says the count indicates the minimum number of homeless living in Lethbridge.

The Point-in-Time Count was conducted by trained staff and more than 75 volunteers over a period of six hours who surveyed people staying in shelters, in short-term housing or were sleeping without shelter.

Results from the count will be used to improve the City’s response “by identifying service needs and informing plans to prevent and reduce homelessness,” says the City.

Survey results of the 454 who were counted show:

* 254 were surveyed or tallied through the unsheltered count. Nineteen of those indicated they had some place to stay but it was not permanent.

* 92 people were counted in shelter or stabilization beds.

* 108 were counted in transitional housing, treatment centres, police holding cells, Lethbridge Correctional Centre, or hospital.

Erin Mason, a data and reporting specialist with Community Social Development, said Wednesday at City Hall that “the main increase comes from the number of unsheltered individuals. In terms of the sheltered count we’re seeing similar numbers of people from 2018, 2021 and 2022.”

“In terms of what we’re seeing, in terms of our service providers, this number wasn’t totally unexpected. This is what we kind of heard in the community.”

Of unsheltered people surveyed, 72 per cent identified as Indigenous which the final report says is higher than the number of sheltered individuals (36 per cent).

That report, available at lethbridge.ca/csd, states the 454 people experiencing homelessness this year is double the 2018 count of 223.

A total of 79 per cent of unsheltered females identified as Indigenous compared to 68 per cent of males.

People who identified as Caucasian represented 14 per cent of the unsheltered population and 41 per cent of the sheltered.

The average age of survey respondents was 27 and the average number of days spent homeless in the past year was 254.

The top reasons reported for loss of shelter were substance abuse, a lack of income for housing, eviction, conflict with roommates or partners, unsafe or unfit housing, relocation, the departure of a family member, as well as mental health, incarceration and abuse.

Nine per cent said COVID-19 had contributed to their situation.

Seventy per cent said they’d stayed in a homeless shelter in the last year.Of the 72 respondents who indicated that they had not stayed in a homeless shelter in the past year, 23 (32%) indicated it was because they had somewhere else to stay.

Forty-nine said fear of safety, bed bugs or other pests, cleanliness and the presence of substance use were among the reasons they didn’t stay in a shelter in the past year.

Forty-one per cent of survey respondents said they’d lived in the city for more than five years or didn’t know. A total of 25 per cent indicated they’d always lived here. A total of 84 people have moved to Lethbridge in the past five years with 69 of those coming from elsewhere in the province. Forty per cent of those said they came here to access services and supports while 21 per cent moved to Lethbridge to visit friends or family.

Lethbridge is the first of seven Alberta cities to release its data from the survey.

The report shows while the number of sheltered people has remained similar since 2018 – 211 in that year compared to 200 in 2022 – the number of unsheltered individuals has grown from seven in 2018 to 235 in 2022.

“The 2022 PiT Count results underscore the need for additional provisional accommodation in the form of transitional housing and treatment spaces, as well as emergency shelter spaces to accommodate the large increase of homeless individuals in Lethbridge in recent years,” says the report.

“The circumstances that lead to homelessness are incredibly diverse with some people identifying as being homeless from infancy to experiencing it for the first time as a senior. The top reasons stated for most recent housing loss were substance use/mental health issues, lack of income for housing, eviction, conflict, or unsafe/unfit housing. The top challenges to finding housing were low income/rent too high, addiction/mental health issues, discrimination and no income assistance,” the report adds.

Surveys were conducted on 14 street count zones in the city and concentrated on downtown.

Through the 2022 administrative count, 200 people were experiencing sheltered homelessness here with most (36 per cent) being in emergency shelters or the stabilization shelter, transitional housing facilities (26 per cent), Lethbridge Correctional Centre (16 per cent), violence against women shelter (10 per cent) and treatment/detox facilities (nine per cent).

The report says “when interpreting data for transitional housing facilities, it is important to note that although these facilities have been identified as sheltered homelessness, transitional housing does represent stable living for many people and the living conditions do not necessarily match those of other less stable temporary housing options such as emergency shelters.”

More than 65 communities across Canada, including Lethbridge, participated in the third nationally co-ordinated PiT.

The Alberta 7 Cities on Housing and Homelessness co-ordinated elements of the count including date and time to allow comparability.

Those seven cities include Lethbridge, Red Deer and Grande Prairie as well as the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society, the Calgary Homeless Foundation, Homeward Trust Edmonton and Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

7 Cities has been working to end homelessness since 2001. Its website said Alberta was the first province with a plan to end homelessness, a plan that has been recognized nationally for its success.

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Dennis Bremner

So, its settled I would presume. Instead of putting up Barrick like buildings that would take about 120 days to become functional and doing so in various areas of Lethbridge fringe, the numbers dictate the use of high rise buildings. Which means downtown, yet, with the number being 454 as soon as you start to house and whittle that number down, more will appear wanting their piece of the downtown. If you look back in this paper you will find where I predicted a doubling and of course was told I was loco, won’t happen, I was an alarmist etc etc.
So once again I will predict, we should be prepared for for 650-700 by the spring of 2025 and over 700 by the fall of 2025. So once all the Downtown High Rises owned or operated by Lethbridge Housing are full, where to next? You should be concerned but I am an alarmist, so maybe not. After all I have been Named Doomsday Dennis, so I would suggest you don’t trust my previous 50 years of being exposed to this same situation over and over again. Experience does not count, compassion does.
Lethbridge Housing will say they will be proving me wrong because by the time 2025 arrives and they have every building full of their “defined homeless” and the unhoused maybe 200, but we will have 500 more (addicts) in homes around Lethbridge and communities will know whether they won the lottery of a true homeless or a meth head in that process. So Lethbridge Housing will start to pronounce that they are winning the war on homelessness and……….
The more you house the more that will come hoping they too will be housed. It has been demonstrated in every city in the world, so it is a catch 22 that requires far more thought then this city has given it so far.
That is my point.

“We have not thought this through, we are now in a position of reacting to a situation now at a crisis level. Now that it is in crisis level people will seek power to control it, without concern for the damage, it is about to do.”

Once you start offering up prime real estate in the city center you have to be prepared to continue to do so.
Once you say, okay, we will offer you Halmrest, you cannot tell someone else, okay we will offer you a home out by the airport because that person will stay in our downtown until he/she gets Halmrest. Halmrest is 121 units and Lethbridge Housing is saying that they will take about 50 for the homeless. Which means, I presume they will not be evicting Seniors but wait until they die or leave, and slowly replace them.
They will start as all other cities have, with good clients, homeless people that truly need a home and will respect their surroundings. But, like every other city that lasts until that group has been depleted and over time the standard to “get in” will be relaxed. Why? Province is paying for the rent and they can also claim damages and cost of repairs if the assessment was incorrect.
So once this decision has been made to focus on housing in the downtown core (Dec 13th City Hall) its over for the “Do No Harm to Anyone” Committee.
Once the power to place anyone anywhere in the city is controlled by Lethbridge Housing ( they are trying to get funding to bypass City Hall and have it go directly to Lethbridge Housing from Provincial Gov) then a nonprofit (Lethbridge housing) will forever control the power to determine where people go and not your elected officials and city hall staff! Accountability? If you have a problem with a neighbor, good luck with that!
Once that occurs, then our task of trying to “Do No Harm to Anyone” is over and the Residents then lives with the results. Do not kid yourself, this meeting on Dec 13th is probably the most important one in Lethbridge’s life.
If you look at the reasons why people are homeless in the list above, just remember, no matter the “reason” they are are called “homeless”, including the meth-head who tore down the walls of his previous home and was evicted.
So be very clear on what is about to happen. Once done, I am done and we all live with the consequences. We wanted clear lines of whom the homeless were and treat each homeless person based on their predicament. We proposed housing for the addicted among us and never once questioned housing for the legitimate “homeless” person. We tried to separate people into groups and it was met with the full force of the Religious community. Homeless is Homeless to them, period.
If the City loses control to a nonprofit, then watch how those lines are blurred over the next X years.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner
R.U.Serious

Agreed, read you 5×5!
The city administration ignores those of us who have seen other areas taken over, making the same mistakes and just as in the pre-SCS situration, they listen to the non-profits, many of which are not from Lethbridge.
You and I know this can be stopped. When the crunch really hits and donor dollars are few for food banks, soup kitchens and non-profits, when the tough times we are facing hits, those the city residents that sat back and said ‘nothing I can do about it’ and they are paying higher property taxes, with losses of services and crime ransacking the city, they will turn on the leadership of this city.
It will be their own fault!

Learjet

Dennis,
For those of us unfamiliar with your body of work, other than operating a crystal ball, can you please enlighten us as to your success at implenting programs to assist people who don’t conform?
As to your plan for buiding metal cells to hold undesireables south of the airport, please advise how you would implement this.
Do you own any land that could be used for this purpose?
Have you identified any land that is available for purchase?
Is the land you have identified zoned for your intended purpose?
Have you spoken with Lethbridge County about your grand plans?
Which funding programs have looked at your plans and concurred?
In my experience, ideas are the easy part. It’s the myriad of details making up the other 90% of operationalizing which stumps the dillitentes
DPL

Last edited 1 year ago by Learjet
Lethrez

What year did the Safe Consumption Site (SCS) open? Correlation, perhaps? Hmmmmm.

Citi Zen

The numbers have doubled for one primary reason, that being that the City enables it. As such, the homeless come flocking here from Medicine Hat and other places.
Quit with enabling the homeless camps and lifestyle. Enable them to move on to somewhere else that might welcome them as much as we do.

R.U.Serious

A large number come from the reserves in the area once the weather warms. They can’t drink or do drugs and have to live under rules at home on the rez. Lethbridge is their sin city where they do what they want, live for free on the streets of shelter while getting food and even clothes delivered to where they are on the streets for free, as well as all their drug paraphernalia.
The non-profits enable them so their jobs are secure! The leadership in non-profits are paid!

Montreal13

Same path as the Vancouver East side and we expect a different result?
Lethbridge is dying just as much as Vancouver.
507 living units in town owned by Indigenous. How many of those are being offered to the “unsheltered”?

R.U.Serious

The more housing we offer, the more will be shipped here from other centers.

R.U.Serious

I appreciate the fact the city finally took a count and asked the proper questions. Did they check ID’s to make sure there was no double or triple counts of people surveyed? Did they verify when they arrived in our city? Many are not honest and will lie and manipulate, which appears to be part of surviving on the streets. Trying to get honest answers from the ones in encampments, the criminals is impossible. Many do not carry ID’s for various reasons, but mostly so their names are not known. With 75 volunteers collecting names and knowing how the addicts travel from the Soap Kitchen and shelter to other areas of the city, I know it is possible of counts being off.
Did they count those incarcerated in the 2018 count? Why would you count someone is still in jail? They are not on the street at this time!
Housing is a provincial responsibility and not the residents of Lethbridge, the taxpayer, even so, more housing we offer in this city, the more other communities will ship people here. There needs to be limits set!
Many are not truly homeless and have homes they could return to, but want to live wild, free. We see this every winter. They return home until the weather warms. Some in the encampments had homes in Lethbridge and would set up a tent just to party with the others for a few days, until they had some of their things stolen and reality set in.
If we allow it, it will continue to grow!