The numbers won’t be tallied and released for a few weeks yet, but Ken Salter figured he had a pretty good idea of what this year’s homeless count will show.
The street outreach worker with ASK Wellness knows these people, he works with these people and he helps these people.
He also helped co-ordinate Friday’s count, which he expected to be slightly higher than last year’s 58, but definitely less than the 105 range of previous years.
“Probably as many as last year, maybe a few more than last year, but not into the 100s,” he said late in the afternoon as most volunteers were wrapping up their searches.
This year’s count was uneventful, other than one pair of volunteers who came across a homeless being of a different kind.
“One team ran into a bear, but he was just as afraid of them as they were of him,” said Salter.
No, the bear isn’t being included in the count.
Volunteers spanned out to scan the riverbanks from Lafarge to Mission Flats to Tranquille Creek, up through Westsyde as far as The Dunes golf course.
“The riverbanks and parks, and alleys. Those are the most popular places,” said Salter.
“They’re definitely finding people. I haven’t calculated any numbers yet. That information will come out in the full report in the November.”
Of the people who are counted, Salter estimated 20 to 25 are not interested in having a roof over their heads. No matter what.
“They tell me it’s addictive. You get up in the morning, there’s no bills in the mailbox, your landlord’s not yelling at you and you have no responsibilities to anybody but yourself,” he said.
And Kamloops has lots of free food available through several different agencies.
Last winter, when the temperature dropped to -25 C, Salter came upon two men who were out in the snow. He offered them a car ride to a warm place for the night — all free — and they responded with “’No thanks, we’re fine,’” he recalled.
There are also homeless people who are dealing with severe addiction and/or mental health issues. Even if provided information, often they don’t follow through, or their affliction gets in the way, he said.
About 80 volunteers hit the streets and riverbanks for this year’s count, which is down from other years. But Salter said he had people from all walks of life, including families, which he found heartening. Some took on extra routes to make sure all areas were covered.
“And every one of them has said, ‘I’ll see you next year,’” he said, pointing out the count raises awareness as much as it gathers data.
The volunteers probably never realized there are people sleeping on the beaches, in the alleys; and the count helps the homeless realize there are people working on the issues, he said.
The information gleaned in the count is used by agencies like ASK Wellness when seeking government funding for programs.
Salter said regardless of the number of people on the street, he gets a boost when he hears from those he’s helped. Often he can’t even remember their names, he’s met so many, like one woman he got to a street nurse two years ago who now works for ASK.
“I don’t get discouraged. I know even though I don’t see the positive results like I would in some other kind of business, I know we’re making things better for people.”