News Provincial Southern Alberta

Half surveyed living in ‘housing-insecure’ or homeless conditions

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A recently released report focusing on local housing showed that of those surveyed in the area, over half were found to be living in “housing-insecure” or homeless conditions.

Locally lead by Strathmore Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), the Rural Housing and Service Needs Estimation Project took place over a 30-day period and consisted of a 30 question survey. 

The timeline of the report was taken from Nov. 16 to Dec. 20, 2020, and was designed to provide an overview of the needs and factors affecting local housing security. Over the duration, local residents were invited to fill out a survey that asked about their housing and employment situations, as well as the kinds of services they both need and receive.

The final report was released on May 31 with 98 people having been surveyed. Of those who responded, half of those residents said they were living in housing-insecure or homeless conditions.

According to Melissa Masse, community support coordinator with the Town of Strathmore, the project presents an opportunity to gauge what the town is doing well, and what services might need more attention for residents. 

“Collecting community specific data is beneficial for all of Strathmore’s support services organizations. They can better understand and meet the needs of their clients,” she said. “Data also makes it easier to advocate for much needed funding to support our community.”

According to the Canadian definition of homelessness, it is described as the situation of an individual, family or community without stable, safe, permanent or appropriate housing, or the means of acquiring it. Meanwhile, insecure housing refers to a situation in which a person experiences difficulty paying rent, spends a major amount of their income on housing, frequently moves, lives in overcrowded conditions, or doubles with a friend or relative.

The most common factors to affect respondents’ living conditions included a lack of money, unaffordable rent or mortgage, mental heath challenges, medical conditions and job loss.

Though the report makes a point of refraining from offering concrete recommendations for Strathmore to address unstable housing situations, it does provide a snapshot into its demographic and how they live. It also encourages the use of its figures to officials in order to begin development of further supports and solutions for struggling individuals and families. 

The report does provide ideas to officials in regards to a starting line of sorts. These suggestions include developing an emphasis on awareness about the issue, and open dialogue with neighbouring communities to develop local practices and strategies.

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Strathmore Times