The City of Kingston is set to survey homeless people in the downtown core next week, despite strong opposition from local social groups.
The census, termed a Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, is part of Kingston’s 10-year Municipal Housing & Homelessness Plan. The census will be conducted every two years over the next decade.
The PIT count is being implemented by the Housing Department along with United Way Kingston, Frontenac Lennox and Addington, who will provide up to 200 volunteers to conduct the census.
The census will take place on Oct. 16. The City also plans to survey rural areas over a two-week period alongside Frontenac County.
The City has stated the survey’s purpose is to garner data to better provide for homeless people in the area, in terms of social programs and public services offered to them.
Despite this, HIV/AIDS Regional Services (HARS) is contesting the survey’s methodology, claiming its questions are too intrusive and inconsiderate of the experiences of local homeless people. The service is also questioning the accuracy of a PIT count. “The methodology being used is very flawed,” Deb Kinder, women & HIV/AIDS coordinator at HARS, said. “It’s going to cause a ton of triggers for a lot of people.” The survey questions may potentially be indicting in nature, she added.
“How would [anyone] feel if three people were approaching [them] at night and asking all kinds of intrusive questions?” she said. “Many people could have just had peaceful nights, but some could be criminalized for this process.” Kinder said HARS was not invited to take part in City-run consultation regarding the survey. She said it was a disappointing oversight given their experience dealing with the homeless in Kingston.
“We really do have a fair relationship with quite a number of street-involved people because we’ve got a drop-in centre and lots of people use that space,” she said, adding the census may invoke inaccuracies from those surveyed given its political nature.
“Imagine somebody is walking up the street and asking if [those surveyed] have used the services of a patrol officer this month? Well, they’re going to be pretty afraid to answer truthfully,” Kinder said.
HARS mass emailed a letter on Wednesday which outlined their concerns. Other groups and agencies have signed the letter, including The Sexual Assault Centre of Kingston, and the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre.
Sheldon Laidman, director of the Housing Department at the City of Kingston, said he dismissed the groups’ concerns, claiming that the list of questions to be included in the survey has undergone heavy revision since its initial proposal. He added an extensive consultative process, which included 20-30 local organizations, took place before the questions were finalized.
The questions, which Laidman emailed to the Journal, ranged from asking how a person ended up homeless, to their health issues, their financial situation and where they may possibly receive assistance.
“I think we’ve gone to great lengths to make sure the questions are appropriate,” he said.
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