New report outlines result of largest coordinated homeless count in rural Alberta

20 communities collected surveys over a 3-month period to map the scope of rural homelessness in Alberta.

April 29, 2020

Edmonton - The Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) announced the release of a 40-page report.
This report provides a provincial snapshot of homelessness and housing instability specific to rural Alberta.

The report presents data collected during the Rural Homelessness Estimation Project held in fall 2018 across 20 communities with a total population of 291,531 (StatsCan 2016). A total of 1,771 individuals were surveyed on location at 185 service providers across 20 communities. 1,098 of those surveyed declared that they did not have stable housing and/or they were at-risk of losing their housing.

Almost 0.37% of the total population are currently facing housing instability and may be at-risk of homelessness. This rate would be pushed to just over 1.0% of the population if we take into account the 905 children and 994 additional adults which respondents noted as sharing their living situation. This would bring the potential number of individuals without stable housing in the 20 participating communities to 2,997.

Respondents identified “low income”, “[inability] to pay rent/mortgage”, “inadequate housing”, and “job loss” as top reasons for why their housing situation was unstable when data was collected a little over a year ago.

These inequities could have been exacerbated since the pandemic and the global recession and the ARDN hopes to gather this information in the second rural homelessness estimation count slated for autumn of 2020.

“Rural homelessness is hidden”, says Dee Ann Benard, executive director of the Alberta Rural Development Network. “It’s not just about having four walls and a roof over your head. Is there proper heating and electricity? Is there consistent running water? Are there too many people in one house? And now, in the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession, those who were precariously housed may be pushed over the edge into absolute homelessness.”

“The severe lack of data on homelessness in rural areas across Canada presents a challenge,” says Scott Travis, Director of Research and Programs at ARDN. “The data provided by local respondents will help service providers’ advocate for much-needed funding, and will help rural municipalities understand how to address housing needs. If vulnerable locals are able to stay in their community, it will benefit the local economy and prevent movement to the cities where people are removed from their familial support system.”

This effort to collect data was led by agencies who know their local communities best.

“This survey has been instrumental in getting the community to take notice of the issue of homelessness and poverty in the Tri-Region,” says Lynne Bossmann, Case Manager with Spruce Grove Family and Community Support Services.

Sharida Csillag, Community Development Officer with Stony Plain Family and Community Support Services further explains, “since the report was published, we have used the data to create a baseline for our region and to inform councils in all three municipalities. It has also been used as a credible source of information for a Regional Champions Table for Reducing Poverty and Homelessness and referred to in the Stony Plain 2019 Impact Report on Poverty Reduction.”

Bossmann continues, "We look forward to participating again in the fall of 2020 and applying the new data to further inform the work we are doing to address this complex issue in our community.”

In partnership with the Family and Community Support Services Association of Alberta (FCSSAA), the ARDN led this province-wide effort to estimate homelessness in rural communities across Alberta. This report is the first time rural homelessness has been compiled on a provincial level. This will help community partners and housing providers develop better supports and services to help people who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

The Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) is a not-for-profit partnership of nine Alberta post-secondary institutions dedicated to addressing key issues in rural communities at a local level. ARDN has authored the Step-by-Step Guide to Estimating Rural Homelessness - available for free, in French and English, from ARDN’s website:


Julia Juco