KAMLOOPS — There appears to be little change in the homeless population in Merritt.
That according to this year's ASK Wellness Society homeless count. ASK Wellness provides an array of social services in communities throughout the Interior.
"This year we counted 17 absolutely homeless," says spokesperson Keri Cooke. "It's fairly consistent with the past four years. In 2016 we had 15, 2015 we counted 16 and in 2014 there was 23."
She cautions however the number of people without permanent homes could be much higher.
"Our count only takes into account those who are absolutely homeless. Meaning they slept outside, they slept under a bridge, a stairwell. It doesn't take into account those who are couch surfing or are the hidden homeless."
Of those 17 people, Cooke says 14 were male, 3 female, all were adults with a mean age somewhere near their mid-40s.
So, what does ASK Wellness do with the numbers?
"We provide it to our city so they're aware and that they take the report we provide and use it to lobby government. The count also helps us connect the marginalized with services."
She says those services may include counselling, vaccinations, and HIV testing.
As for the barriers the homeless face she counts chronic heatlh problems and addiction as the biggest.
Moving forward, Cooke says she's hopeful considering the new NDP government plans on implementing a province-wide poverty reduction strategy.
"I am hopeful. You have to be optimistic and believe these programs are helping. For me on a local level, we see it. Some of the individuals I connected with last year have been safely housed for over a year and that's success."
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