Homelessness in Canada is usually believed to be an urban problem, but it also exists in rural and remote areas. However, the problem remains hidden because accurate data can’t always easily be collected, and, in turn, small communities can’t access services and funding or plan accordingly.
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.
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.
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.