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More than 50 per cent of people in Westlock area are ‘housing insecure’

A survey of Westlock residents showed 62 per cent of housing insecure respondents were over the age of 40 and women were 3.3 times more likely than men to be housing insecure. 

Several months after a housing and service needs estimation survey was conducted across the region, results show a total of 59 per cent of Westlock respondents to be housing insecure.

The survey was conducted by the Rural Development Network (RDN) last spring between Feb. 13 and March 31 on behalf of Westlock and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) with support from the Town of Westlock, Westlock County, and the Village of Clyde.

The project was expected to provide a comprehensive picture of housing insecurity and homelessness in Westlock.

Broken down, the results showed that of the 420 survey submissions, 246 respondents were found to be housing insecure, while there were 208 dependents and 304 adults who shared housing insecure conditions with the 246 housing insecure respondents. In total, the survey showed 758 people in the community are experiencing housing instability.  

“Of those, only 75 people self-identified as being housing insecure. There really was actually 758 housing insecure,” said FCSS executive director Tracy Proulx. “So it may be that they have bed bugs or they have cockroaches or the house that they’re living in isn’t suitable or isn’t stable and they don’t see that as being housing insecure, but when you look at what the national standards are, that is considered housing insecure.”  

Other information collected from the survey showed 62 per cent of housing insecure respondents were over the age of 40 and women were 3.3 times more likely than men to be housing insecure. 

The survey itself was comprised of a short version with 19 questions and a long version with 28 questions and included a range of questions from personal demographics including age, income, and gender, to current housing situations, community living, income sources, and support services.  

Considering there are roughly 5,000 people in Westlock, Proulx noted that 758 represents “a pretty high percentage" of the community, though she “wasn’t surprised" by the numbers.

Information from the survey was compiled by the RDN and helped to establish a community action plan with several recommendations resulting from the survey, noted Proulx, in how the coalition can move forward in dealing with homelessness in the community. Those recommendations included increased and continued collaboration (among agencies), implementing coordinated access, and implementing a housing-first philosophy.  

“Not one of the recommendations says that we should have a shelter in our community,” said Proulx. “We can’t sustain a shelter in our community, we really can’t.”

The survey results were recently presented to the Westlock Homelessness Coalition, the FCSS board of directors and were also shared with CAO’s with the Town of Westlock, Westlock County and Village of Clyde.  

Proulx noted that she feels they “have some good information from the recommendations” that can be used moving forward and thinks “it’s time to take action.”

“The collaborative access point is really what’s going to make it work in our community,” Proulx concluded.

[email protected]

Kristine Jean

About the Author: Kristine Jean

Kristine Jean joined the Westlock News as a reporter in February 2022. She has worked as a multimedia journalist for several publications in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and enjoys covering community news, breaking news, sports and arts.
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