New report on homelessness raises eyebrows in Moncton

A new report on homelessness is raising some eyebrows in Moncton.

Research suggests that up to 80 per cent of the homeless population is hidden or not counted, and one expert says a disproportionate number of the homeless are women.

The report was presented to Moncton City Council Monday evening. Sue Calhoun of the Greater Moncton Homelessness Steering Committee contributed to the document.

“There were about three different reports and they used the figure that 80 per cent of the homeless population is hidden homeless,” she says.

The hidden homeless are people without a fixed address that couch surf, or stay at friends’ homes until the welcome wears out.

In 2012, 720 people used shelters in Moncton but research suggests that number is only 20 per cent of the overall homeless, and the actual number could be closer to a staggering 3,600 people.

Things are no different in Halifax, where 2,000 people accessed Shelter Nova Scotia’s facility in 2011.

“That is a significant amount of people but I am quite confident there is a lot more people out there that are couch surfing or sleeping in a car or sleeping on the street,” says Don Spicer of Shelter Nova Scotia.

For 10 years, Raymond Gould has run Moncton’s Food Depot Alimentaire, a warehouse that serves food banks. He says the need has exploded over the years.

“We are not talking 10 per cent, we are talking 30, 40, 50 per cent more, so it is the working poor,” says Gould. “I would say they have a lot to do with it.”

Beth Lyons of the YWCA says women often experience homelessness very differently than men.

“Staying in an abusive relationship because it gives them a warm place to sleep, women’s homelessness is not always as obvious as it is with men who are more apt to access shelter spaces,” says Lyons.

Danny Gallant, who runs a shelter in Moncton, says homelessness is more complex than some might understand.

“We have kind of come to find that people that stay here, yes, addictions is one factor that brings people here, but there are also a few other factors, like mental illness,” says Gallant.

“I think a lot of people might have the idea that well, if they just went out and got a job, then everything would be OK,” says Calhoun. “The lives of people who live in homelessness are really much more complex than that.”

The report, which includes nine months of work by dozens of stakeholders, is now in the hands of Moncton City Council.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s David Bell

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