June 8, 2021

Province-Wide Survey Identifies Rural Housing Challenges

In the fall of 2020, Yellowhead County took part in a large-scale, collaborative effort to measure homelessness throughout the eastern rural areas of the county. Within the county, 22 respondents (61% of total respondents) were found to have housing conditions that are considered to be insecure and/or absent.

According to this survey, a lack of money, unaffordable rent or mortgage, mental health struggles, and medical conditions are the primary pressing concerns for eastern Yellowhead County residents with insecure housing.

“It can be really difficult to know how to help people, if you don’t understand the scope or characteristics of a problem,” says Wendy Robinson, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) Supervisor. “Thankfully, we were able to complete the survey prior to many businesses and services shutting down in the fall. This is important, because housing insecurity has the potential to become an even greater issue going forward.”

The project, known as the Rural Housing and Service Needs Estimation Project, saw over 24 communities across Alberta survey a total of 1,800 respondents and was overseen by the Rural Development Network and funded in part by Reaching Home, the Government of Canada’s official homelessness strategy.

Over a 30 day-period, service agencies invited residents to fill out a survey that asked questions about their housing situations, their employment, and the kinds of services they currently need and receive. Since homelessness also includes living conditions that aren’t permanent and reliable, this method was used to identify individuals living in all four kinds of homelessness as defined by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.

Responses will be used to develop strategies to fill identified gaps in service. This is the first step towards ensuring no one gets left behind in Yellowhead County. Participation in future projects will help improve services by measuring their effectiveness.

Yellowhead County FCSS would like to thank our partner agencies, including WEE Food Bank, Yellowhead County Libraries, and the Yellowhead Emergency Shelter. Most importantly, we’d like to thank the people that took the time to share their experiences. Their stories provide a guide map for how they can be better supported, and preventive strategies implemented.

Survey results can be found online here.