Rural Homelessness Estimation

Provincial Housing and Service Needs Estimation

When it comes to homelessness and understanding its causes, the urban experience tends to dominate the conversation, mainly due to the “visibility” of individuals experiencing homelessness in urban centres. The issue of homelessness in rural and remote areas is far less understood and acknowledged because of its “hidden” nature. 

Recognizing this, the Rural Development Network (RDN) is conducting a 2023 provincial housing and service needs estimation with 25 rural, remote, and Indigenous communities across Alberta in an attempt to better understand what homelessness looks like in your communities and across the rural landscape. Specifically, the purpose of this estimation is to:

  1. Develop a contextually relevant process for local service providers to engage and collect informed data with those who are at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness.
  2. Provide a comprehensive picture of housing instability and homelessness in Alberta, including demographic information on who is experiencing homelessness and which services are being accessed and which services are missing.
  3. Help inform service providers and municipal, provincial, and federal policies, practices, and funding decisions on homelessness, housing, and support services.
  4. Develop recommendations and next steps for service providers and municipal, provincial, and federal governments.
  5. Elevate and incorporate the voices of people experiencing homelessness in the solutions to end homelessness.

With this in mind, we are calling on rural, remote, and Indigenous communities interested in participating in a housing and service needs estimation to apply for a spot in the project.  We will accept 25 communities. To qualify, you must be considered a rural, remote, and/or Indigenous community in Alberta and be willing to commit to the entirety of the project.

How to apply: The Call for Applications is currently open to any rural, remote, or Indigenous municipality/governing body or not-for-profit organization across the province of Alberta, here. Participating communities must commit to providing a community/project coordinator in-kind for roughly 8hrs/week for the duration of the project in order to ensure its’ success.

How it works: The estimation process coordinates a network of partner organizations to administer surveys to their clients over a 30-day period.  Participating communities will receive a customized report for their community which details the housing and service needs of participating residents. In addition, communities will be added to a provincial report and an interactive online database where groups can access credible, research-based data on rural homelessness.

For more information about the project and/or application process, register here for our upcoming information session! The session will be held on Zoom on Monday, November 28th, 2022 from 1-2:30pm. If you cannot make the session or have other inquiries, please reach out to Emma Wallace (Project Manager, Community Development and Homelessness Estimations) at emmaw@ruraldevelopment.ca / 613-229-1144. 

Please note that while Emma's phone number is an Ontario phone number, she absorbs any and all long-distance charges associated with cross-provincial communications.

The Step-by-Step Guide to Estimating Rural Homelessness was awarded a CMHC Gold Roof Award for Knowledge to Action.

This project was awarded a CMHC Gold Roof Award for Knowledge to Action.  

This project is a large-scale, cooperative effort between many organizations to gather data using the method outlined in the guide. The Step-by-Step Guide to Estimating Rural Homelessness was created by RDN to help provide more accurate estimates of homelessness in rural and remote communities. Unlike the point-in-time (PiT) method used in urban areas, data is collected simultaneously at different points in a community which is more suited for rural and remote settings. This method is particularly useful for communities with limited resources because it’s inexpensive and can be tailored for specific situations or issues. Communities that couldn’t perform a homelessness estimate before can now conduct one that is affordable and accurate.

The Rural Homelessness Database

Through the free and user-friendly Rural Homelessness Database, communities can choose to share their data with other communities, service providers, and researchers. This is significant because data on rural homelessness hasn’t always been shared in the past, and broader perspectives on the issue couldn’t be developed.

Data sharing is encouraged by the use of a 9-character Unique Identifier Code (UIC) that allows clients to remain anonymous. This code also prevents them from being counted more than once, even if they visit different communities.

The largest count of homelessness in rural Canada

In 2018, the guide was used to perform the largest ever collaborative count of homelessness in rural Canada.

In 2019, RDN used the guide to identify 92 people in Conklin, Alberta, who were housing insecure. Those findings prompted Cenovus Energy to commit $50 million over 5 years to improve housing in 6 Indigenous communities.

In 2020, the guide was used in the Rural Housing and Service Needs Estimation Project that covered 27 communities in Alberta, some of which also participated in the 2018 estimation.

To date, the guide has been used to identify more than 3,000 housing-insecure people across 20 rural communities.

Estimating Rural Homelessness in the news:

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