A new study is giving the Northern region a better understanding of homelessness in the area.

An enumeration report done by members at Laurentian University in the spring breaks down the entire Cochrane district by city. Preliminary numbers revealed at World Homeless Day celebrations show there are 1,782 homeless people across the district. Timmins has the highest number with 733 homeless people. Moosonee is next at 426, Cochrane’s at 365, Hearst is 117, Kapuskasing at 99, and Iroquois Falls and Matheson are at 42.

Professor Carol Kauppi says the biggest category of people living with homelessness is with hidden homelessness, like couch surfing. Kauppi says that is a common patter for the northern region. “It’s not easy to do a study and get those people to come out. We always know that the number we come up with is going to be a conservative estimate. There are more people living with homelessness.” She adds that “when we compare this number with other places in Canada, we find it’s a high rate of homelessness.”

Kauppi says hidden homelessness is an interesting stat because those people suffer from some of the most serious impacts of homelessness, their diet is ‘inadequate, they’re very stressed, very often they have mental health and physical health challenges. And as I presented here today, addictions are a big part.”

Other findings in the report for Timmins are that 54 per cent of those surveyed were men, with 43 per cent being women and three per cent LGBTQ. 68 per cent of the surveys were Indigenous peoples.

Outgoing executive director and regional coordinator of the Cochrane District Social Planning Council and co-founded Homeless Coalition of Timmins KayLee Morissette says these numbers don’t shock her, but it does show that there is a real problem. Morissette says here is a slight increase from the last study from 2011. “I am shocked and disappointed at the high proportion of indigenous individuals experiencing homelessness in our community.” She adds that “it just goes to show that we need more community collaboration on solutions. We need to engage more voices as well.”

The enumeration report was revealed at a community feedback forum to better educate Timmins on what is happening in our community. Morissette says she doesn’t think people understand what homelessness is because they aren’t seeing 700 people sleeping in alleyways downtown. “I think what we’re seeing is an increase in some panhandling activity downtown that might be between five and eight individuals that people are seeing, so they might acknowledge that there are a dozen homeless people, but not the number that we actually know exist.”

Homeless Coalition of Timmins says having this data is vital. It says any funding available wants concrete data of the issues. The organizations says this report is crucial in moving forward and helping the homeless community.

The report talked about at the community forum was just preliminary numbers. Professor Kauppi says a full report, including a breakdown of the communities studied, will be revealed next month.