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Students hit the streets for the homeless

April 30, 2018

Students hit the streets for the homeless

There are a myriad of reasons why a person could be homeless. Ranging from loss of employment, lack of affordable housing, disabilities or illness. Regardless of the reason, some people in Terrace, BC are on the streets, searching out a warm bed and a hot meal.

Students of Northwest Community College (NWCC) have an opportunity to gather valuable data about the number of homeless people in the city of Terrace while they conduct a Point in Time homeless count.

Point in Time counts are coordinated with communities throughout Canada and through the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy and aim to count people who are, at a given time, staying in shelters or sleeping on the streets.

“The data will be used by the City of Terrace to inform its policies,” says Chris Gee, NWCC Instructor. “It will also be used provincially by BC Housing to build a regional understanding of the nature and scope of homelessness in our province and it can be used by local agencies to understand the utilization of services and the characteristics of the populations they seek to serve.”

The research project stemmed from an opportunity left by Terrace and District Community Services Society (TDCSS) who coordinated a homeless count in recent years. Without the continuation of their involvement, NWCC saw an opportunity to teach students some very practical skills, an experience very different than the type of learning that happens in the classroom.

“This exercise connects students directly to individuals and situations they will encounter during their professional practice as social service workers or social workers,” says Chris.

Students of NWCC’s Social Service Worker program spent much of the semester planning when and how they could collect data that will support Point in Time counts.

“We put a lot of effort into gathering information that included following the same methodology as Point in Time and consulting with them to make sure we could use their surveys and if they could provide any more information for us about the homeless count,” says Sarah Cootes, a second-year Social Services Worker Program students at NWCC. “I think it will be interesting and I am glad this information will be useful to them.”

With clipboards and printed surveys, students visited Terrace’s shelters and community events and approached people on the street over the span of two days and one night.

“Criteria for measuring a if a person can be considered homeless is based on whether or not they pay a set monthly rent,” says Sarah. “We first ask for consent to be surveyed, go over privacy concerns and continue to ask them more questions laid out in the survey.”

Collaboration on the research project happened between both first and second year students of the Social Service Worker program with the diploma students leading the project. However, the effects of this type of experiential learning were widely felt by any student who was involved.

Carmelle Dry is a first year student who had some work experience before she decided to attend NWCC to gain some credentials in the field.

“I think it’s a pretty amazing experience to be interacting with people and trying to help in any way you can,” says Carmelle. “The things that we’re learning and the skills from the classes are actually so practical and so relevant to working in this field, so I think getting out and using them is really great and I look forward to the opportunities we have in this program.”

The students are preparing a final report on the data they collected that will be presented to the City of Terrace in May 2018.

For more information about the Social Service Worker program please visit: nwcc.ca/program/social-service-worker-ssw

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