Groups of volunteers hit the streets Friday, looking for those who have nowhere to live.
They’ll be looking in areas known for ad hoc tents and camps, in sheltered gathering spots and wherever else people who don’t have a place to live might go.
The annual homeless count in Kamloops began Thursday, with numbers being tallied at city shelters. Friday, those on the streets will be added to that number.
Ken Salter, street outreach worker for ASK Wellness, said Thursday the 40 shelter beds in town are full at the Emerald Centre and Y Women’s Shelter.
Friday, he’ll be handing out backpacks for volunteers to give to those they encounter. The packs contain hoodies or sweatshirts, underwear, toiletries and scarves.
Last year’s homeless count surprised all involved when only 58 people were found. In previous years, the number has been around 105.
He expects the results could be similar this year. Housing like Henry Leland Centre and the Crossroads Inn are giving people permanent shelter who haven’t had somewhere to call their own, he said.
“I think we are having an effect. This year will show us we were wrong or we were right,” he said.
ASK executive director Bob Hughes agreed with Salter’s explanation for last year’s drop in homeless numbers, but he also thought it was possible some people got missed in the count.
Still, ASK has co-ordinated efforts with the Canadian Mental Health Association and private landlords to provide more housing for people who have had a tough go in the past.
“It’s not scientific, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get everybody. It’s a guide, it’s a snapshot,” he said.
Hughes is interested in getting information about the people who are still on the streets, and whether they’ve been here for a long time or are recently arrived. If it’s the latter, then they could be transients travelling through.
There are 143 apartments in Kamloops where people who have been homeless or hard to house now live, he said.
“They are getting off the street. I expect we’ll be somewhere between where we were last year and historic highs of 105, 106. We’ve made inroads into tackling homelessness,” he said.
The final count numbers won’t be released until a final report is completed in late November.
A count is also going on in Merritt.