Mishia Bakstad and Brian Desjarlais took part in the 2011 Homeless Count outside the Sally Ann soup kitchen on Wednesday.

Getting the number on homelessness

Volunteers with the 2011 Homeless Count head out into the streets early Wednesday morning, armed with clipboards, snacks, drinks, and friendly smiles.

They sport bright yellow buttons that read ‘Homeless Count’ in big block letters.

It’s about 11:30 a.m. on count day and folks are starting to line up for lunch.

Volunteers with the 2011 Homeless Count head out into the streets early Wednesday morning, armed with clipboards, snacks, drinks, and friendly smiles.

They sport bright yellow buttons that read ‘Homeless Count’ in big block letters.

It’s about 11:30 a.m. on count day and folks are starting to line up for lunch.

Soft-spoken street worker Mishia Bakstad explains she has already filled out a questionnaire, as she waits for a hot lunch to be served up at the local soup kitchen attached to the Chilliwack Salvation Army Care and Share Centre.

Bakstad was happy to answer questions with a count volunteer after arriving at the emergency shelter run by Chilliwack Salvation Army the night before.

“I think the count is great. There’s so many of us,” she says about the local street population. “Often they’re full up at the shelter. They had to put up a cot for me.”

Articulate and friendly, the young woman agrees to share part of her story of trying to survive on the streets of Chilliwack for the past year.

“I was attacked twice in the past month,” she says. “Finally, I came here and had a safe night’s sleep at the shelter.”

She doesn’t sugar-coat things.

“It’s hard,” she admits. “People give you dirty looks when you’re on the street, but they don’t know what you’ve been through.

“Other times it’s like we don’t even exist. But we’re people, too. It’s not like we chose to be here.”

Fed up with working the streets to pay for her drug habit, Bakstad is now desperately trying to get into a detox facility so she can get clean and get off the streets.

“I’m phoning three times a day to see if I can get in,” she says.

If she can stay clean, there’s a camp job waiting for her up in the Yukon.

Most of local homeless advocates have said they expect to find more people living on the streets with this year’s count. About 30 volunteers with the 2011 Homeless Count spread out across Chilliwack this week, but the results won’t be announced until all the numbers are in.

“Alarmingly” there are more youth and teens living the transient lifestyle, and more homeless in general bunkering down beyond the downtown core, in Rosedale, in Yarrow and Cultus Lake, says an HIV/AIDS outreach worker with PCRS.

“I think we’ll find a higher number of homeless in Chilliwack than the last time we did the count,” said PCRS staffer Kim Lloyd, who coordinated the Chilliwack end of the 2011 Homeless Count.

Last time in 2008 there were 98 homeless people counted in Chilliwack. Those types of statistics help governments and agencies trying to establish services and facilities to serve marginalized populations.

This time there could be “twice” that many counted during the survey, including more young people, Lloyd suggested.

“The problem with counting youth is they are often part of the hidden homeless. During the day many are sleeping, since at night they have to stay vigilant for safety reasons. So they’re not in the areas we expect them to be.

“Plus some are couch surfers so we may not see them on the street.”

Chilliwack is not unique in that other regional communities are facing the same challenges with homelessness, addictions and mental health issues, she notes.

“The reason why communities are involved in doing this homeless count is to help get funding and prove there is a homeless issue.

“The biggest hurdles to finding stable housing are addictions and mental health concerns. Once they find housing they are able to move forward. That’s one of the key issues.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Just Posted

Chilliwack toy drive brings in gifts, money to Ann Davis Transition Society

People dropped by Superstore to donate toys and more for those in need this holiday season

Chilliwack RCMP find chemicals and cannabis extract in illicit lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Chilliwack RCMP seek suspects in rash of poppy donation box thefts

Incidents at four different locations in Sardis in the days leading up to Remembrance Day

German-born British Columbian warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Train ride at Minter store not part of this year’s festive fun

Tough decision made to stop seasonal train in its tracks after injury suffered by Brian Minter

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Price makes 36 saves as Habs edge Canucks 3-2

Late goal lifts Montreal past Vancouver

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

1 woman dead, man in hospital after ‘suspicious’ crash: police

Homicide investigators and Burnaby RCMP are investigating the fatal collision

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

Most Read