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Niagara Counts 2021 PiT Count provides a snapshot of homelessness in Niagara

On March 23, 2021, Niagara Region, alongside agencies from Niagara’s Homelessness Servicing System, took part in the third annual Niagara Counts homelessness Point-in-Time (PiT) Count. The PiT Count provides a snapshot of homelessness at a single point in time and is a provincial and federal requirement that supports Built For Zero Canada (BFZ-C) objectives and A Home For All: Niagara’s 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Action Plan (HHAP).

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PiT Count was modified by using community agency staff rather than volunteers and implemented enhanced COVID-19 safety measures, with nearly 70 agency staff supporting the event. Staff from the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre and Niagara Regional Native Centre joined agency staff to support the count. Without the support of all agency staff and partners, this event would not have been possible so we would like to thank everyone for participating.

The results of the PiT Count were presented to the Public Health and Social Services Committee on June 15, 2021.

Pit Count key highlights
  • On March 23, 2021, at least 665 people were experiencing homelessness in Niagara compared to 625 in 2018. A total of 439 surveys were completed in the 2021 count. Of those 665 people, 121 were children aged 0-15 years, 76 were youth aged 16-24.
  • 79 per cent of respondents considered Niagara to be their home community
  • There has been a decrease in youth aged 16-24 experiencing homelessness, compared to 2018 (21.1 per cent), thanks to shelter diversion programs in Niagara
  • More respondents were staying in unsheltered locations or responded “I don’t know” when asked where they were staying overnight in the 2021 count vs. 2018 (47 vs. 20)
  • Nearly 1 in 4 (22.6 per cent) of respondents identified as Indigenous or having Indigenous ancestry. This continues to remain vastly disproportionate to the 2.8% of Niagara’s overall population with Indigenous identity. People with Indigenous identity and/or ancestry are dramatically overrepresented in the homeless population across the country.
  • In 2021, 66.3 per cent of respondents had a high school education or greater, compared to 61.5 per cent in 2018
  • In 2021, 24 per cent had experienced homelessness for the first time before 18 years of age compared to 36 per cent in 2018
  • Over the past year, 42 per cent of respondents had been homeless six or more months
  • The top five reasons given for most recent housing loss included:

  1. Financial hardship – 22.8 per cent
  2. Conflict with spouse/partner – 13.7 per cent
  3. Landlord/tenant conflict – 12.8 per cent
  4. Addiction or substance use – 11.6 per cent
  5. Unsafe housing conditions – 10.3 per cent

  • ​High rent costs and low income are the biggest challenges that a large majority of respondents continue to face in 2021
  • More than 60 per cent (compared to 53.9 percent in 2018) of respondents self-identified as having a mental health issue and 40.5 per cent (compared to 34.3 per cent in 2018) of respondents self-identified as having a substance use issue. While having a mental health or substance use issue doesn’t equate to experiencing or being at risk of experiencing homelessness, people experiencing homelessness are disproportionately affected by mental health and addictions issues. Often, the stress of being homeless may exacerbate a previous mental illness or substance use issue, and/or the difficulties of being homeless may encourage anxiety or depressive disorders.

Next steps

Niagara Region will continue to work with our Indigenous partners at the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre and Niagara Regional Native Centre to host Indigenous magnet events later in the fall, pending provincial COVID-19 guidelines. These events offer additional insights to the experiences of homeless individuals who identify as Indigenous or having Indigenous ancestry and ensure they have the appropriate supports needed. Additionally, the information gathered from the 2021 PiT Count will be leveraged as we work with the community to determine priority groups for coordinated access. This data will also help us determine areas where more information is needed and allow the Region to incorporate that into our Homelessness Data Strategy, currently in development. The final report, including the outcomes of the Indigenous magnet event, is planned to be released late fall 2021. Visit our website for more information about Niagara Counts.

Quotes

"The PiT Count allows us to capture a snapshot of homelessness in our community. By knowing who is experiencing chronic homelessness we are able to better provide programs and supports for people in need."
~ Director of Homelessness Services, Cathy Cousins
"I would like to thank Niagara Region staff, as well as the nearly 70 agency staff who supported the third annual Niagara Counts homelessness Point-in-Time Count, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This event, and the data that comes out of it, is critical to improve the understanding, needs and circumstances of the people who are affected by homelessness in our community."
~ Regional Chair Jim Bradley

Media Inquiries

Peter Criscione
Niagara Region
905-980-6000 ext. 3747
peter.criscione@niagararegion.ca


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