The 99 people found in this year’s Kamloops homelessness count is just the tip of an iceberg that is probably closer to 1,149.
Tangie Genshorek, Homelessness Action Plan co-ordinator, said Friday she wasn’t surprised at this year’s results, which showed 59 men, 24 women and nine children without homes. Seven people were counted but their gender wasn’t recorded.
What she did find disturbing was the children living in shelters.
“The number of nine children, I can’t get over that. It just makes me want to cry,” she said.
“That’s absolutely unacceptable. And the idea there are 24 women, most have just become homeless. Most of them have always lived in Kamloops.”
Seven years ago, the count was at 104. But the slight decline didn’t give Genshorek reason to celebrate. The number of women and children is rising.
“The demographics are changing. We’re finding more and more women, more and more children, more and more people who haven’t been homeless before. People on the edge are slipping.”
There are different types of homeless people; the annual count includes those in shelters and those who can be found in makeshift camps and on the streets. It doesn’t include those in temporary housing in town — Kamloops has 183 units — nor are those who don’t want to be found counted.
That’s where the 1,149 estimate comes from. Genshorek said it’s down slightly from 2010, when it was at 1,167.
“I’m confident in that number,” she said.
So what puts them on the streets?
“The economy and more than two decades of lack of creation of affordable housing,” she said.
“We need standard market housing with an affordable threshold of payment. Our rents in Kamloops are about the same in Vancouver, almost.”
The $850 being charged for a one-bedroom apartment in Kamloops is impossible for someone on welfare to pay. A single person gets $375 for housing allowance out of a monthly $610.
Rental housing is too expensive for private developers to get into, so no one has built any new units for years, she noted.
That’s why Genshorek was in Ottawa last week, asking the federal finance committee to create a tax incentive for developers to build a range of affordable housing.
“It was a positive response,” she said, adding Kamloops MP Cathy McLeod has been championing the cause.
“It’s been proposed for the budget for next year.”
A similar tax incentive exists in the U.S. that has prompted the creation of rental units at a variety of prices. They are capped at an affordability level for a long period of time, such as 30 years, she said.
Genshorek said she’ll be releasing another study late this month that looks at the need and demand for affordable housing in Kamloops. Those numbers will help guide the next KamPlan, which the City is beginning to undertake.