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Fort St. John takes part in provincial homeless count

Fifty volunteers hit the street Wednesday for Fort St. John's 2020 homeless count, following up on a provincial initiative started in 2018.

The count is spearheaded by the Women's Resource Society in partnership with the Homelessness Services Association of BC. The society has also released a new publication called Word on the Street FSJ, which tells the stories of homeless and at risk individuals in the community. 

Homelessness in Fort St. John continues to differ from much of the province, with a large number of residents couch surfing, said vice-president Jen Pimm.

The most dangerous aspect of homelessness in northeast B.C. continues to be the harsh weather, said Pimm, noting high rental prices keeps housing out of reach for many. 

The count took place over 24 hours, and started Tuesday night with volunteers polling local shelters, RCMP holding cells, hospitals, and other strategic places where at-risk individuals might stay.

Fort St. John was one of 16 communities selected for the province-wide initiative.

Data from this year's count has yet to be finalized, but addiction, income, and medical issues have been found to be key challenges for those experiencing homelessness in Fort St. John.

When the first count was completed in 2018, two out of three surveyed in the city had been homeless for more than a year. And of those surveyed, 75% were men, and 25% were women. More than one-fifth were seniors and more than one-quarter had been in foster care. Roughly 60% were aboriginal.

Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News