Rural homelessness study completed

Research conducted for Agassiz, Hope and Boston Bar

The Homelessness – A Rural Perspective study is now complete and finalized.

The research was conducted by the Mennonite Central Committee for Agassiz, Hope and Boston Bar.

Funded by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the project aimed to provide a longitudinal profile of who is migrating to these communities, how this migration impacts homeless numbers and how service providers can modify their services to meet this need.

“Having an understanding of what we need to work toward is critical to reduction and elimination of homelessness in our community,” said Gerry Dyble, executive director of Hope & Area Transition Society.

“Without having a research paper that is specific to our community, we do not know in which direction to head. This paper is like our road map.”

The study looked at data and information obtained from focus groups, individual questionnaires, community stakeholders and past research on homelessness in the area.

It showed there is still much to learn from research on rurality, rural poverty, and homelessness. The migration of the urban poor to rural communities in the Fraser Valley has become commonplace and reflects the interconnections of social, economic, and cultural factors between rural and urban areas.

Researchers found it difficult to get an accurate number for rural homelessness because the individuals involved constitute a hidden homeless population subjected to secondary homelessness.

Many individuals living in the eastern Fraser Valley are either at-risk of homelessness, absolutely homeless, or hidden homeless. Although they have some housing options, there isn’t enough safe, affordable, semi-independent, and obtainable housing for them. Many of the individuals who fit in the homeless category are chronically homeless, facing multiple barriers, and transient.

According to the study, 61 per cent of renters pay at least 30 per cent of their income towards rent, and 45 per cent of that group are in “Core H”– paying 50 per cent or more of their monthly income towards rent.

Many of the at-risk population are forced to consider renting a room in a motel, but typically motel owners charge rates that are not affordable to people on a fixed income. This consequently forces these people onto the streets, into unsafe living conditions and/or into seeking various emergency shelter services. In Agassiz and Boston Bar, there are no social housing options for individuals and there are limited services to offer support.

“The importance of understanding who is migrating to rural communities and why it is critical in addressing the homeless and at-risk population through the development of programs and services is to either support individuals in our community or to assist them in moving back to their ‘home’ community,” said Dyble.

“The report had cited the need for a more integrated approach to the delivery of services for the at-risk population, which in fact the Hope & Area Transition Society has been successful in achieving funding for the H.O.P.E. Project (Helping Others Pursue Excellence).”

Nine recommendations were included in the Homelessness – A Rural Perspective report including further housing options for the at-risk population, working in collaboration with local community stakeholders, and developing further ongoing relationships with the provincial government to implement programs, services and housing options in the rural communities.

The complete report can be found online at www.hopetransition.org