News Items for Friday, Mar 03, 2017
1. Krecsy: Together, we will end homelessness in Calgary
2. Calgarians bear Coldest Night of the Year walk to raise funds for the homeless
3. Homeless Find a Champion in Canada’s Medicine Hat
4. Agency celebrates a decade of helping homeless, at-risk youth
5. City has to change locks on up to 7,300 affordable housing units after locksmith van stolen
6. Throne speech: Province to cut school fees, cap electricity rates, diversify energy markets
7. 4,000 people are now homeless in Greater Vancouver
8. Housing First strategy likely not enough to end Regina homelessness
9. Toronto woman handing out ‘Period Purses’ filled with tampons, pads to homeless women
10. Success stories abundant, money is not for Housing First in Regina
11. Where will hundreds of people living in Hamilton social housing go during repairs?
12. Inuit housing shortage a public health emergency, Senate committee says
Krecsy: Together, we will end homelessness in Calgary
Calgary Herald, Feb 25, 2017
By: Diana Krecsy
Since launching Canada’s first plan to end homelessness in 2008, Calgary has made significant progress in transforming how we as a community address homelessness in our city, and as a province. Despite economic upheavals and issues such as the least affordable housing in the country for the lowest quintile of income earners, since 2008, we have housed more than 8,000 people out of homelessness, with 91 per cent of those achieving success in their housing. We’ve decreased homelessness on a per capita basis by 26 per cent and added more than 425 new units of specialized housing. In late 2016, to accelerate the building of more specialized housing for vulnerable people, the Calgary Homeless Foundation took the bold step of transferring its entire housing portfolio to HomeSpace Society, a registered charity focused on excellence in the development, building and management of affordable housing for vulnerable Calgarians. Over the past eight years, we have made extraordinary progress in how we solve the deeply complex and troubling societal issue of homelessness.
As the system planner for Calgary’s homeless-serving system of care, the Calgary Homeless Foundation has promoted greater co-ordination throughout the system, and developed program and funding measurements to ensure our resources are directed to create the greatest impact and build Canada’s largest homeless-information database. What we’ve achieved since 2008 has been the result of extensive collaboration between the homeless-serving sector, government, faith groups, the corporate and philanthropic community, and Calgarians. As we move into the final two years of Calgary’s plan, we are inspired by what we’ve achieved and are committed to working collectively to bring about changes that will continue to end homelessness in our city. Last October, over 60 board chairs and CEOs from over 30 service agencies, foundations and community partners working in or with the homeless-serving sector, gathered to collectively determine the three priorities they believed can and must be achieved by the end of 2018.
The collective vision of the group is to:
House more people. Ten thousand people between 2008 and 2018, with 8,000 housed to date.
Create more futures, with more than 600 units, 425 units built to date.
Save more lives. Ensure Calgary has a high-performing system of care that provides single point of access and assessment, is integrated with big systems and is informed by quality data, rigorous performance and outcome measurements. One of the key elements of achieving these priorities is greater integration between the homeless-serving system of care and big system players such as housing, justice, health and children’s services. Recently, the government of Alberta announced the separation of Human Services into two distinct ministries: Children’s Services, and Community and Social Services. For the homeless-serving sector, this is a significant move. It should provide better lines of sight internally, heightening capacity of each ministry to address the distinct needs of vulnerable populations. It should also strengthen capacity to address critical policy changes, the issues of rising disability caseloads and the lack of sustainable guaranteed income for vulnerable adults. As distinct ministries, each should have enhanced opportunity to accelerate and activate meaningful system changes that will benefit vulnerable people across our province. Calgary’s homeless-serving sector is made up of a strong and professional workforce, leaders, advocates, collaborators and partners committed to building strong communities and to helping all people not only exit homelessness, but to re-enter community life. Just as the Alberta government’s recent establishment of two distinct ministries will enhance the delivery of real-time solutions in the community, every Calgarian can take action to support ending homelessness in Calgary. Whether it’s volunteering, donating, being a positive and inclusive voice for affordable housing in your neighbourhood, everything you do is making a difference. When we each do our part, together, we will end homelessness in Calgary.
Calgarians bear Coldest Night of the Year walk to raise funds for the homeless
Calgary Herald, Feb 25, 2017
By: Anna Brooks
Donning bright yellow, glow-in-the-dark toques, more than 400 Calgarians braved the cold Saturday evening to raise awareness and funds for the homeless. Samantha Jones, location director for the fourth annual Coldest Night of the Year event, said the walk — which included 60 teams walking 2-, 5- and 10-km routes around downtown Calgary — isn’t just about raising money for those in need, but puts Calgarians in the shoes of those without homes struggling to survive in the bitter winter cold. “Just being out there walking the streets for a couple hours gives you a tiny experience of what it’s like for the homeless population here,” Jones said. “All those people on the streets are citizens. They’re someone’s son or daughter, and it’s our job as fellow neighbours to take care of them.” Partnering with community members to raise funds for Bankview Apartments, Feed the Hungry and the Mustard Seed, Jones said they’re on par to raise around $105,000, slightly down from the $125,000 raised last year. “Considering we had almost 600 walkers last year and only 450 this year, the fact that we’re still that close to our goal really speaks to the generosity of Calgarians,” Jones said. “An interesting phenomenon we’re seeing this year is we have (fewer) donors, but the gifts we’re getting are bigger.” Part of a national event seeing thousands of participants walking in more than 110 communities across Canada, Jones said the Calgary event is one of the largest fundraisers for the national campaign. With more than 80 volunteers helping out, registrants started their walk at Eau Claire Market and ended with a hearty bowl of chili. The group is taking donations until the end of March, online at cnoy.org/calgary.
Homeless Find a Champion in Canada’s Medicine Hat
New York Times, Feb 26, 2017
By: Craig S. Smith
MEDICINE HAT, Alberta — Kurt Remple, a toothless, unemployed, struggling alcoholic in Medicine Hat, the curiously named prairie town in Alberta, is a success story of sorts. Five years ago, he was living under a bridge and surviving on free meals from charities. Today, he lives in a small but tidy one-bedroom apartment in a stucco bungalow. “It was November and it was getting cold when I met this worker at the Champion Center,” he said, referring to a local establishment that serves breakfast to the poor. “She said, ‘Come to my office and we’ll see if you can find a place.’ ” Medicine Hat is on the leading edge of a countrywide effort to end homelessness through the “housing first” strategy, developed nearly 25 years ago by a Canadian in New York by which anyone identified as homeless is offered a home without preconditions for sobriety and other self-improvement that keep many people on the street elsewhere. Alcoholic? Here’s a one-bedroom apartment where you can live — even if you’re still drinking. Drug addict? Here’s a studio with heat and hot water — even if you’re still getting high. Mentally ill? Here’s a place to feel safe and call your own — and where caseworkers can find you. The theory is that only after people are in stable housing can they begin to address their other challenges. The strategy has been widely adopted in Europe and Australia. In the United States, it has found its most striking success in reducing homelessness among military veterans in cities like New Orleans, Salt Lake City and Phoenix. But no country has embraced the approach as firmly as Canada. And nowhere in Canada has as much progress been made as in Medicine Hat, a small energy-rich city on the South Saskatchewan River. In November 2015, the city declared that it had succeeded in ending homelessness, bringing accolades and attention from all over the world. But Medicine Hat’s claim points to the fuzzy logic of the problem: The end of homelessness is a state, not a moment. There will always be people who become homeless, and there will always be people who prefer to remain homeless, even in Medicine Hat. “I like moving around — I can’t explain it,” said Gordon Thompson, a cheerful homeless man of 72, sitting in a Medicine Hat Salvation Army day room where clusters of people gather to pass the time and get a hot meal. He jokes with the caseworkers who come by imploring him to accept a home but stays instead in shelters or on the street, one among a hard-core cohort that shuns assistance. As elsewhere in the world, Canada’s homelessness problem grew in recent decades as rising rents pushed the country’s most vulnerable citizens into the streets. The oil boom fed the real estate bubble in Alberta.
Calgary, the center of Alberta’s energy industry, had the worst homelessness in the province. In 2006, the province gave the city money to test the housing first approach, which had been pioneered more than a decade earlier by a Canadian psychologist, Sam Tsemberis, while he was working in New York. With parallel projects popping up in British Columbia and Ontario, the Mental Health Commission of Canada got involved, lobbying for federal money to study the strategy. The commission started a clinical trial in five cities across Canada — Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton — in which 2,200 homeless people with either mental illness or an addiction were randomly assigned to either housing first or treatment as usual. The results were startling, validating the housing first model and showing that the cost of housing the homeless was far less than the cost of the emergency services needed by the homeless while they were living on the street. “The reduction in days in jail alone pays for the program,” said Jaime Rogers, a Medicine Hat housing official. She cited studies that said the average homeless person costs taxpayers 120,000 Canadian dollars a year, or $91,600, in services, while it costs just 18,000 Canadian dollars a year, or $13,740, to house someone and provide the necessary retention support. That kind of evidence persuaded the conservative government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pursue housing first as a national policy. “This is where it went to a scale that I have not seen in any other country,” Dr. Tsemberis said in a telephone interview. Under Canada’s subsequent Homeless Partnering Strategy, the federal government now distributes about 176 million Canadian dollars a year, or about $134 million, among 61 communities to fund services for the homeless. About 40 percent of that money must be spent on housing first interventions.
Seven Alberta cities — Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Red Deer, Wood Buffalo and Medicine Hat — formed a loose coalition and in 2007 each wrote its own 10-year plan to end homelessness. The province now spends more than 83 million Canadian dollars, or about $63 million, a year to carry out the plans, and came up with a 10-year plan of its own. Progress has been promising. In 2014, when Alberta performed the country’s first “point in time” count — giving a snapshot of people who are homeless on a particular night — the total in the seven cities studied was 6,663. In 2016, the number had fallen nearly 20 percent, to 5,378. Results in Medicine Hat were even more striking: The number of homeless counted fell by nearly half to 33 from 61. The number of participants in the housing first program, meanwhile, doubled to 120. Medicine Hat leapt ahead, in part, because the problem is more manageable here. It is easier to deal with homelessness in a town of 63,000, where social workers know the names of almost everyone who is down and out. It is also easier when members from the agencies working on the problem are so few that they can sit down around a table. But Medicine Hat has another advantage that could point the way for other cities: a centralized office that manages both housing stock and support programs.
The Homeless and Housing Development Department of the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society is led by Ms. Rogers. Recognizing that some people will always lose their homes, and with no national consensus of what “ending homelessness” means, Ms. Rogers and her team came up with their own definition: In Medicine Hat, it means connecting anyone identified as homeless with a caseworker and putting him or her on a waiting list for a housing program within 10 days. That turned out to be a stroke of public relations genius, because when they reached their goal, word that Medicine Hat had “ended homelessness” ricocheted from Argentina to Germany to Japan. The once-skeptical mayor, whose office plays only a marginal role in the plan, has since given as many as 200 interviews on the subject to news media from all over the world. The question, of course, is: How long do people remain homeless before being housed? Because of adequate federal and provincial funding and a good supply of local housing, few people in Medicine Hat remain truly homeless for more than a few months, Ms. Rogers said. She added that it took time to help homeless people get their papers straightened out and arrange for government assistance. Then, they are offered at least three potential homes. Some prefer to wait in a shelter until they are happy with what is available. Ms. Rogers said it cost less in the long run if the process was slow and deliberate because the goal is to house people permanently rather than rush them to unsuitable housing and have them return to the street. Of course, a housing first strategy in larger cities becomes exponentially more complex, cautioned Dr. Stefan Kertesz, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, who has studied housing first challenges in the United States. Only some major metropolitan centers are equipped with the leadership, manpower or structure necessary to coordinate a multiagency effort. “Cities with tight housing markets need a very substantial amount of work, both in terms of front-line staff and organizational leadership, put toward recruiting landlords and even rehabbing buildings,” Dr. Kertesz said by email. “It means a major organizational undertaking with all pistons firing.” In Canada, there is now a move to define on a national scale what it means to end homelessness, providing a benchmark for success. Alina Turner, a fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and one of the lead researchers pushing for a definition, said current programs should aim for “functional zero,” which recognizes that there will always be some people without homes. Under the currently proposed definition, functional zero would mean a 90 percent decrease in people experiencing homelessness in a community. “Housing is the easy part,” said Ms. Rogers, who acknowledged that by Dr. Turner’s definition, Medicine Hat still had a way to go. “Keeping them housed will always be the difficult part.”
Indeed, Mr. Remple, sitting in his sparsely furnished apartment, said this was the fifth place he had lived in during the five years since he connected with the housing first program. “I kept taking in homeless friends,” he said blankly. “I’d have two or four people living and drinking and partying with me until I’d get evicted.” Frustrating as such people might be, most eventually manage to settle down, social workers say. The stability of a home allows people to gradually address their problems. Mr. Remple’s caseworker, Allysa Larmor, said he had been sober since January and seems determined to change his ways. She has helped mediate with his landlord and connect him with services like addiction counseling and a food bank, and she will soon start working with him on developing “meaningful daily activities” to fill the time that was once taken up drinking.
Agency celebrates a decade of helping homeless, at-risk youth
CTV News, Feb 28, 2017
Calgary Adolescent Treatment Services, or CATS, has been helping street youth for a decade and is going strong.
It’s a modest looking place in the downtown core, but the CATS clinic is doing mighty things.
“It’s not a lot to look at but what happens here is incredibly important for young people who are at risk of falling through the cracks, who are at risk of falling out of the community, they come here, they have their health care looked after, they have a warm place to be, they have warm arms that embrace them, this stuff really matters,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. This is the 10th anniversary for the clinic, started by pediatrician Dr. April Elliott who believes that it’s never too late to help a kid out of a tough situation.
“When you believe in someone they do better, there’s such a growth mindset for youth, that we just give them encouragement, we hear their story, we really do coach them more than anything to take care of themselves both physically, mentally and emotionally so I think we are additive,” she said. “If we can get in there and give them that trauma-informed care, if we can have that growth mindset for them, we can change the trajectory of their lives considerably.”Dr. Elliott and Dr. Ellie Vyver are available to young people between the ages of 12 and 23 two days per week, no matter what situation the kids are in. “A lot of the kids who come and access our services, they really come often without identification, Alberta Health Care services, so we want to offer service that is barrier-free and non-judgemental so they can get the care that they need while they are trying to transition their lives into something much better,” said Adam Flegel, Wood’s Homes. The clinic is run through Wood’s Homes downtown exit community outreach, which has been helping youth in Calgary since 1914. They see people with complex issues like addiction, mental health issues, homelessness and abuse, and don’t limit themselves to helping only youth. “The program is designed to be 13 to 24 but we are seeing a bunch of older adults come in here just because they can see the sign, they can see what we offer and they are coming in for services,” said Flegel. Dr. Elliott is currently writing an international paper about what she and her team are doing here in Calgary. You can find out more about CATS on the Wood’s Homes website.
City has to change locks on up to 7,300 affordable housing units after locksmith van stolen
Calgary Herald, Mar 02, 2017
By: Annalise Klingbeil
It could take as long as six weeks to re-key thousands of affordable housing units across the city after key-making equipment connected to the Calgary Housing Company was stolen from a vehicle. City staff and Coun. Brian Pincott worked through the night Wednesday and early Thursday to put in place a response plan, after learning a contractor’s vehicle was stolen overnight Monday, possibly putting the safety of thousands of residents living in the city-owned units at risk. The yellow and black ABOE Locksmith van was stolen outside an Airdrie apartment complex, and though the vehicle was quickly recovered Tuesday morning, officials learned equipment and information used to cut keys was missing, according to RCMP. “The equipment taken could allow someone to create keys for some CHC units,” Sarah Woodgate, president of Calgary Housing Company, said at a news conference Thursday. The Calgary Housing Company houses 25,000 people in 7,300 units on 211 properties across the city. “If the person who stole this equipment knew how to use it and put the equipment together with the information, and knew how to put all that together, there’s a potential they can . . . create keys to access units,” said Coun. Pincott, the chair of the Calgary Housing Company. No Calgary Housing Company tenant names or other personal information was included in the stolen information. Officials say it’s not yet known how many units are affected, so out of an abundance of caution, information is being hand delivered to all units and locks on fewer than 7,300 units will be changed. “Part of our challenge is understanding the scope of it, so we’ve shot big to make sure we’re not missing anybody,” Pincott said. Pincott and Woodgate stressed tenant safety is top of mind and police are conducting a full investigation. “First and foremost for us is our tenant’s safety and everything that we’ve done has that in focus. Everything else is secondary to that,” Pincott said, noting contractor policies will be looked at down the road. Mayor Naheed Nenshi agreed. “The No. 1 thing we have to do is make sure that we’re looking after people’s safety. Particularly, some of the tenants are vulnerable and so we need to make sure we’re OK there. It’s all hands on deck. Fix this, do the re-keying, make sure we have everyone’s safety in place,” he said. “Once that’s all done, we have to have a big conversation about policy, procedure, process and how we can avoid this sort of thing in the future.” At this point, it’s not known how much it will cost to re-key the unknown number of units. “There is undoubtedly a cost for this. We’ll have to see the result of the police investigation as to where that lies,” Pincott said.
Throne speech: Province to cut school fees, cap electricity rates, diversify energy markets
660 News & Canadian Press, Mar 02, 2017
EDMONTON – The Alberta government says the first job of the spring session of the legislature will be to cut school fees. Premier Rachel Notley’s government made the announcement Thursday afternoon in its speech from the throne. The government says news legislation will forbid parents from having to pay for essentials such as textbooks or to bus their child if they already live within their designated school area. The move is expected to save 25 per cent of the fee costs and take effect this fall. Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell said in her speech from the throne that the province will continue to fight for the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia ports. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has approved expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, as has B-C, but opponents are promising to fight it. The government also says it will help residents with their electricity bills by capping rates. The spring session is expected to last until early June as members debate 15 pieces of legislation or more. Finance Minister Joe Ceci brings in the budget in two weeks on March 16.
Highlights of the 2017 speech from the throne include (via the Office of the Premier):
Creating jobs and supporting jobs
•Diversifying Alberta’s energy markets by seeking intervener status on any legal challenges to the Trans Mountain Pipeline and continuing to work with the federal government and provinces on the Energy
•Putting more Albertans to work building highways, schools, affordable housing and health facilities across the province.
•Moving forward with the first renewable energy auction, attracting up to 400 megawatts of new generation, along with new investments in a more diversified economy.
•Expanding supports to help entrepreneurs across the province.
Making life more affordable
•Reducing school fees to help families save money.
•Capping electricity rates with new legislation.
•Helping families, businesses, Indigenous communities, municipalities, farms and non-profits save money and reduce emissions with new energy-efficiency programs.
•Protecting pocketbooks with a new Consumer Bill of Rights.
Protecting public services
•Approving more new schools to be built across Alberta.
•Partnering with the Alberta Medical Association to help communities find and retain health-care professionals.
•Building more long-term care and dementia spaces that are modern, safe and allow our loved ones to age with dignity.
•New legislation focused on ensuring child death reviews receive the utmost care and attention.
•Eliminating barriers to justice for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Making Alberta a better place for everyone
•Addressing the critical need for access to clean drinking water in First Nations communities.
•Moving forward with the City of Edmonton and City of Calgary on the creation of city charters.
•Expanding protection for whistleblowers and strengthening conflict of interest laws.
•Continuing with consultations to protect the Castle area and improving our parks.
4,000 people are now homeless in Greater Vancouver
Metro News, Feb 27, 2017
By: Jen St. Denis
The number of homeless people in Metro Vancouver rose 44 per cent in just three years, according to estimates released ahead of an official count of the region’s homeless population.
Metro Vancouver estimates that 4,000 residents in the region are now homeless, compared to the 2,777 counted in 2014. The regional district says the number of homeless residents has gone up 26 per cent every year since 2011. In the midst of a real estate boom that has also impacted rental rates, the region now also has the distinction of hosting more than 70 homeless tent camps. The regional district estimates that every week, five people lose their housing and fall into homelessness. “This is a crisis that is moving in the wrong direction,” said Nicole Read, mayor of Maple Ridge, a municipality that has struggled to permanently house a group of former tent city residents because of community opposition to sites for new transitional housing. “We have no plan here in the province of British Columbia to address homelessness, and local governments are scrambling to do their best with no resources, no funding to be able to deal with the citizens on their streets who need care and need attention and need places to live.” Mayor Gregor Robertson, who was first elected mayor in 2008 and campaigned at that time with a promise to end street homelessness, laid the blame for the problem specifically at the feet of current B.C. Premier Christy Clark. “We had an immediate partnership with the B.C. government, we had community partners and we were very successful for three years in bringing the street homelessness population down from over 800 to under 150,” said Robertson of the period between 2008 and 2011. “In 2011 things turned and Christy Clark became premier. There was no commitment to solving homelessness here in the province. There was very little follow through action in accelerating the pace to get housing built to address homelessness.” Homelessness has risen nine per cent every year since 2002, according to Metro Vancouver, but the rate of growth picked up after 2011, rising 26 per cent a year between 2011 and 2016. Metro Vancouver mayors are calling on the provincial government to work with the federal government, municipalities and community groups to create an action plan to deal with homelessness, a coordinated approach they say has so far been non-existent. B.C. is currently the only province without a poverty reduction plan. Metro Vancouver’s report also calls for a suite of measures to prevent homelessness, including the improvement and expansion of home care for those with chronic illness, mental illness and addictions; the establishment of supported living programs for youth aging out of foster care; an increase in the supply of rental housing for residents who make less than $30,000 a year; and supports to help former prison inmates find housing.
Increasing social assistance rates, which currently allow just $375 a month for housing and have been frozen for 11 years, is also a key recommendation, as is eliminating the BC Housing waitlist. Many people on the waitlist say they have been waiting years to get housing. Rich Coleman, B.C.’s responsible minister for housing, said he was “flabbergasted” by Robertson’s comments. He said his government has made “the most investments made in Canada on any file like this,” including $375 million on affordable housing and rent supplements in Metro Vancouver. He called on municipalities to use their land zoning powers to protect existing rental and build new, higher-density rental housing.
Coleman added the federal government could provide tax incentives and low-cost financing to build rental and non-profit housing. Coleman has in the past said that the BC Housing waitlist is not a good measure of how many people need housing in the province, since many people on the list are already housed and are asking for transfers within the housing system. In response to the Metro Vancouver report, he said that homelessness numbers are rising in part because more people are coming to B.C. from provinces like Alberta to look for work. “We were bending the curve (of homeless numbers) downward but then the economy in Alberta changed dramatically,” Coleman said.
However, homeless counts conducted by Metro Vancouver in 2014 and the City of Vancouver in 2016 found that the majority of respondents had lived in the municipality where they were interviewed for at least five years. Metro Vancouver will conduct its regional homeless count on March 7 and 8, with results expected to be released by April 4. The federal government will be releasing a National Housing Strategy this spring.
Housing First strategy likely not enough to end Regina homelessness
Regina Leader-Post, Feb 27, 2017
By: Heather Polischuk
While Housing First is a good place to start, a recent report out of Edmonton suggests the strategy will need a lot more help as it works to house the chronically homeless. The Edmonton report, released earlier this month, noted there had been “much progress” in the eight years the strategy has been in place in that city. But, it added, while there had been a 43 per cent decrease in the city’s homeless count over that eight years, 70 per cent of the still-homeless were considered “chronically homeless.” As in Regina, many of the homeless self-identified as Indigenous. Less than a year into its own existence, Regina’s own Housing First strategy is likely to face similar challenges unless all levels of government work together to address the issue, say those involved with the program. “We need collaboration of all three levels of government to be able to move forward with it,” said Phoenix Residential Society’s Kendra Giles, Housing First program supervisor for HOMES (Housing and Other case-Management and Engagement Services) and CHIP (Centralized Housing Intake Process). “Funding from the federal government just won’t cut it in terms of being able to get that (going).” She said the city is “getting more on board with” Housing First, but noted the province has not contributed — something YWCA CEO Melissa Coomber-Bendtsen fears is unlikely to change in the upcoming budget given the province’s economic woes. “I think that we’re in a place now too where we’ve seen some growth in terms of shelter availability and shelter beds, and yet the stats aren’t changing …,” said Coomber-Bendtsen, adding she would be hesitant to lobby the government for more money for the province’s existing system for dealing with homelessness. “Instead, I think it’s more important for us to work with the government in really analyzing and strategically looking at what has worked across the country and really changing the program itself.” Where that money could be better spent, the Housing First partners say, is through investing in affordable housing options for those currently homeless, including supportive housing for the chronically homeless, many of whom have mental health or addictions issues. In achieving the stability of a home, these people can then start to focus on the issues that kept them on the streets in the first place — the principle behind Housing First. Coomber-Bendtsen referenced 2005 numbers that found affordable housing costs significantly less than $10,000 per person per year while shelters cost between $13,000 and $42,000. Institutional costs of homelessness, such as frequent use of hospitals and jails, run between $66,000 and $120,000 per person per year, she said. “So it’s much cheaper for us economically as a province to look at things in a different way than it is to continue to do what we’re doing,” she said. Another important piece of the conversation, say those with the YWCA, is “hidden homelessness,” which includes women and their children. Coomber-Bendtsen noted a 2015 count found 37 per cent of the homeless population was children under 18. Hillary Aitken, senior director of housing with the YWCA, said 2016 numbers for the organization’s 22-bed emergency shelter My Aunt’s Place are startling. While they served 358 women and 118 kids, a staggering 768 women and 503 children had to be turned away. “The province is not putting enough funding into actually creating an effective strategy to end homelessness in the province …,” she said. “There’s tons of data that says if you put a dollar into housing, you get back 10, because of a lot of the cost-savings, but also because people are in more stable situations so then start costing the system less and actually putting more into the system. So it’s incredibly frustrating to hear nobody wants to put in the one dollar … We’re not seeing the political will to make that happen, at any level of government.” In the meantime, the YWCA held its Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday to raise funds and awareness about homelessness. With 179 walkers and 28 teams, the event raised just over $37,000 — more than $7,000 above its goal. Coomber-Bendtsen said this year’s top fundraising team was the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan, which raised more than $3,000 with close to 15 walkers.
Toronto woman handing out ‘Period Purses’ filled with tampons, pads to homeless women
CBC News, Feb 27, 2017
By: Ramna Shahzad
Jana Girdauskas is a mother of two with a full-time job who admits that until last week, she hadn’t really thought about what it would be like to have your period and be living on the streets. “It’s such a mundane and not fun thing for me. It has to be much worse if you’re on the streets,” she told Metro Morning on Monday. The thought of menstruating and having limited or no access to feminine hygiene products is what led Girdauskas to put together Period Purses. She said the idea of giving out handbags filled with pads and tampons to women who may not be able to afford them prompted an overwhelming amount of donations from her Bloor West Village community. “I posted it on one of my parent Facebook groups in my neighbourhood because I needed a purse,” she said. “I got many, many purses and so many donations. I had to take it and run with it.” Girdauskas said it very quickly came to include not just feminine hygiene products but also a variety of other things such as scarves, deodorants and coffee gift cards. She had to ask a local cafe and bakery to help her store the purses and their contents. “There’s been many times things have shown up on my doorstep. I’m just flabbergasted it brings me to tears,” she said. “I’m overwhelmed with the outpouring of kindness in our community.”
An uncomfortable conversation
Girdauskas, who says she hasn’t done anything like this before, admits talking openly about periods with women who live on the streets is an uncomfortable conversation. It reminded her how fortunate she is. “From woman to woman, I get it. We’re all just human. It’s nice for us to spread our kindness,” she said. “I think the uncomfortable feeling is needed so I don’t forget my privilege.” Due to the positive feedback and willingness of her community to help, Girdauskas says she plans to keep this project going until March 10. She is looking into local charities and shelters to see if there is a way to keep the project going forward past that date.
Success stories abundant, money is not for Housing First in Regina
CBC News, Mar 01, 2017
By: Tory Gillis
If you don’t know where you’re going to sleep, it’s tough to focus on other pressing matters, such as addiction, employment or improving your health.That’s the idea behind Housing First in Regina, which will receive approximately $700,000 dollars in federal money in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Since it began in earnest just over a year ago, 32 clients who are chronically homeless have been given housing, as well as support for whatever else they need once they have a roof over their heads. Bob Kastrukoff beams as he gives a tour of his modest one-bedroom apartment just north of Dewdney Avenue in North Central Regina. “This is my new home for the past five months and it flew by, it’s been great. I think it’s right-on, it’s a beautiful, beautiful place,” he says, adding a chuckle. “If my vacuum was working I would have had it even cleaner.” Kastrukoff says it could have been 20 years since he had a place to clean, and admits life wasn’t always easy before he got the keys to his apartment last August. ‘I’m getting too old to lay on the cement in 40 below’ “I kicked the streets for a lot of days and drank a lot of the downtown juice,” Kastrukoff says, admitting he’s struggled with alcohol. “I slept in banks, honestly, I did for the last few years… [the new apartment] worked out good, I’m getting too old to lay on the cement in 40 below anyway,” he says. Kastrukoff gestures underneath his TV to a shelf of new books, some of which were gifts from police officers who visited to congratulate him on the home. He says he often had run-ins with police and had regularly spent time in cells during the years when he was living on the streets, sometimes even twice in one day, on a bad day. “If you’re on bad behaviour, too intoxicated; downtown cells. And you get released, it’s always a charge. Public intoxication, or open liquor or whatever,” he says. “It wasn’t pleasant. Of course, nobody likes to go to jail, and I’m one of them, I don’t like to go to jail.” Kastrukoff smiles and says his case worker recently told him he hasn’t been in jail since August, a feat which he says feels “pretty right-on”.
“Anecdotally, I would say that yes, we’ve noticed that Housing First has made a difference,” said Regina Police Inspector Lorilee Davies. She says police interventions often end up becoming a kind of fail-safe for people who are chronically homeless in Regina, with nowhere else to go. The Regina Police service has noticed a decrease in calls about unwanted guest calls and public intoxication arrests in the downtown area since the program began. The police performed an analysis based on one client who was frequently in contact with police before they were given a home. Over a two-year period, that person was the subject of 139 calls for service and was arrested 105 times. After they received a home, that same person was the subject of just seven calls for service within seven months. Davies says police are currently studying statistics in relation to more Housing First clients to better understand what changes they’re seeing. “But like I said, that’s one person and we’ve definitely, definitely seen a change,” she said.
Detox centre, hospitals also see changes
The Detox Centre in Regina says their most frequent visitors stayed in brief detox nearly every night. But this past winter, around ten of those frequent visitors now have homes, and aren’t staying over nearly as often. “It wouldn’t be out of reach to suggest that some of them attended our facility over 300 visits,” said Troy Neiszner, manager of the addiction treatment program for the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region. “We haven’t had to turn people away this winter, whereas in the past there were nights where we had to call mobile crisis because beds are full.” The health region has a team called Connecting to Care that works to find out why its most complex clients have so many visits to emergency rooms and overnight stays in acute care, and works to fix it. Sheila Anderson is the executive director of urban primary health services for the health region. She says the team works to connect those clients with community agencies, including those that administer Housing First. Sometimes, the most frequent visitors to the hospital need very basic help, including finding a family doctor or gaining access to services at the food bank, or the stability of having somewhere to call home. “If people don’t have a home and don’t have food, those are basic necessities of life. So when you say you want to help that person take care of blood sugars, they’re actually just concerned with where they’re going to sleep tonight, and where they’re going to eat,” she said. “So you need to actually meet some of those basic fundamental needs of a person before you can get them invested in some of those health issues that they have,” Anderson added. While the acute care and emergency visits can count as some of the most expensive aspects of health care in for the health region, Anderson says the program is aimed at improving lives, rather than just saving dollars.
Success abundant, money is not
Kendra Giles is the Housing First Supervisor at Phoenix Residential Society. She sees the program’s progress so far as nothing short of ‘phenomenal’, given that 32 people have received housing to date through Housing First. Each client says their quality of life has improved within a year of the program. She says some clients have ‘graduated’ out of needing help from the program, gained education, or sought employment. There have been no cases of ‘failures’ or people for whom the program just didn’t work. However, Giles says while the current funding from the federal government is ‘a good start’, she says it’s not nearly enough to end homelessness. She cites that other areas are combating homelessness through Housing First with money from all three levels of government, rather than just one. “The funding has definitely allowed for a significant decrease in homelessness, particularly for those that are the most vulnerable and ‘hard-to-house’ but it is nowhere near putting a big enough dent in homelessness for those that are still on the streets struggling every day,” she said, adding that 97 more people in Regina are currently on an active waiting list for Housing First. Blair Roberts is the Director of Homelessness Partnering at the YMCA of Regina, which administers the money for Housing First. He says the $700,000 for 2017-2018’s Housing First efforts in the city is not expected to extend past this year, and is likely to return closer to $400,000 next year. “It’s pretty rare that you’ll have something like this that everyone can kind of agree is a good thing. The challenge is, is it resourced enough? And the answer right now is no,” Roberts said.
A different kind of police visit
For Bob Kastrukoff, it’s nice to know police see him in a different light than they did when he was on the streets. He can be sure of that, because they’ve visited his new apartment. “He offered them snacks and juice, and showed such pride in his residence,” said Insp. Lorilee Davies. “They were just so happy, number one that he was doing so well and had such pride in his place… it’s really good for our officers to see that, too.” “They gave me those books right there and some other home-warming gifts, very, very nice actually,” Kastrukoff said. “But they’re impressed with my place. One cop said ‘Hey Bob, you’ve got to show my wife how to clean the house.’ I said, it’s easy, don’t let it build up this high. Just do it daily, and it’s a done deal.”
Where will hundreds of people living in Hamilton social housing go during repairs?
CBC News, Mar 01, 2017
By: Samantha Craggs
The city is grappling with what to do with hundreds of people living in two north end social housing complexes who will soon be forced to temporarily leave their homes. Now, one Hamilton councillor says it should sell two of its own properties to someone willing to temporarily house them. Jason Farr from Ward 2 says the city should look at selling two prime corner lots — 344 Bay St. N. and 38 Strachan St. W. — to a developer. That developer would have to be willing to temporarily house residents from Jamesville and the 500 MacNab high rise — two social housing mega projects up for repair and replacement. Farr will pitch the idea at a March 21 planning meeting. One plot is a park, but it’s right across from Bayfront Park. The other is a community garden, but there’s space nearby. “Maybe everyone will say, ‘Let’s leave well enough alone,'” he said. But it’s worth looking into. Hundreds of people will have to temporarily move in the coming years as CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) repairs and replaces their units. At 500 MacNab St., there are 146 units. CHH will spend $6.5 million to renovate the building, but doesn’t know where people will live while it does that. Meanwhile, CHH will build a mix of housing types at the Jamesville townhouse complex. But even if it does the work in phases, dozens of families will need to find temporary housing. Farr’s suggestion involves two pieces of high-profile land. One parcel — 344 Bay St. N. — is at the mouth of Bayfront Park. The Strachan Street land is near the new West Harbour GO station. Farr also suggests looking into selling one or both of the small ball diamonds at Eastwood Park for housing or a public parkade, and using that money to help do $3 million in repairs to Eastwood Arena. There are only two community events booked at the ball diamonds this year, he said. And people will only use it on Tuesdays. “If that ball diamond was busy five nights a week, or even four nights a week, I probably wouldn’t even consider the ball diamond,” he said.
CHH doesn’t yet know when it will do the work on Jamesville and 500 MacNab.
Inuit housing shortage a public health emergency, Senate committee says
Nunarsiaq Online, Mar 02, 2017
By: Jim Bell
The housing shortages that plague the four regions of Inuit Nunangat represent a public health emergency that requires immediate federal government intervention, the Senate standing committee on Aboriginal affairs said in a report issued March 1. To fix it, they recommend the federal government develop a funding strategy for Inuit Nunangat to help regional housing agencies cope with declining social housing budgets and make better plans to cope with long-term housing needs. “The lack of decent and affordable housing continues to have serious public health repercussions throughout the Inuit territories,” the report said. The Senate Standing Commitee on Aboriginal Affairs is chaired by independent Liberal Senator Lillian Dyck while Conservative Senator Dennis Patterson serves as deputy chair. To research their report, the committee heard from numerous witnesses at hearings held between February and June 2016, and in April 2016, visited communities in Nunavut and Nunavik. They found the housing shortage is linked to multiple public health crises in the the Canadian Arctic such as tuberculosis, which occurs among Inuit at a rate that is 250 times greater than in Canada as a whole. It also contributes to higher rates of respiratory tract infections among Inuit children and chronic lung diseases connected to overcrowded and poorly ventilated buildings. And they also said overcrowded and inadequate housing is connected to more stress, anxiety and other mental health problems. Because home ownership and private rental housing is financially out of reach for many Inuit, social housing will continue to be a necessity, the committee found. “Given the ongoing financial and demographic pressures for social housing, adequate federal support is considered critical by many in order to help territorial and Inuit governments keep up with the escalating housing needs in their regions,” their report said. One of the most serious financial problems that Nunavut and the Northwest Territories face is declining revenue for social housing maintenance. That’s because, under an arrangement that dates to 1998, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is slowly reducing its operation and maintenance contributions to the two territories. By 2037, these CMHC contributions will have been reduced to zero, and the territorial governments must pay all social housing maintenance costs. This means the Nunavut and NWT housing corporations will be increasingly reluctant to build new social housing—because to do so will add to their already staggering annual maintenance budgets. “These operation and maintenance costs only grow as more homes are built. The Nunavut Housing Corp. said that operating and maintenance costs are so high that if the corporation were to successfully address the housing deficit in Nunavut by adding 3,000 units by 2037, its operating budget would have to double,” the report said. Another factor is rapid population growth, especially in Nunavik, where the Inuit population grew by 23 per cent between 2006 and 2011, more than double the Inuit population growth rate in Nunavut. And Nunavik likely suffers from some of the worst deprivations. “Nunavik has one of the highest rates of overcrowding in Canada, with 53 per cent of Nunavik families living in overcrowded homes in 2015,” the report said. That compares with an overall overcrowding rate of 38 per cent in Nunavut, although in some Nunavut communities, the overcrowding rate is as high as 72 per cent. Another problem is that land lease policies make it difficult for many people in Nunavik to become homeowners. “Land tenure regimes, where land is collectively owned, can also make it challenging to obtain mortgages and mortgage insurance,” the report said. Local landholding corporations, which control municipal lands in Nunavik under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, are allowed to lease lands to individuals for a maximum of only five years. Longer leasehold periods require the approval of a general assembly of the landholding corporation. At the same, Quebec law prevents the creation of mortgages on lands leased for less than 10 years and the CMHC will not ensure mortgages on lands unless the term of the mortgage is five years less than the term of the land lease. “The combination of these factors makes it almost impossible for an individual to acquire a house, unless he or she can dispense with mortgage insurance,” the report said. The result is that only 3.2 per cent of Nunavik Inuit live in their own homes, compared with 21.9 per cent in Nunavut and 72.4 per cent in Nunatsiavut. Yet another problem in Nunavik is that very few local Inuit ever qualify for staff housing when they are hired for government jobs. That’s because, under collective agreements with Quebec unions, those housing units are reserved almost exclusively for southerners hired from the South. “It creates a lot of racism, a lot of hate of white people, a lot of hate of people that come up to work… It really hurts when I can’t get housing and I know it’s empty,” Nunavik youth representative Olivia Ikey told the committee.
To fix the housing mess in Inuit Nunangat, the committee makes 14 recommendations.
These include the following, that:
• the CMHC should work with other federal departments, territorial and regional governments and Inuit organizations in the NWT, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut to develop adequate, predictable, stable and long-term funding for housing;
• the CMHC should look at delivering funding directly to Inuit organizations;
• the seven Nunavik communities where marine shippers must still pay marine navigation fees should be exempted from paying those fees to reduce the cost of shipping building materials
• the Treasury Board and Inuit governments should look at staff housing allocations to better include locally-hired people;
• the CMHC should look at more homeownership programs, plus housing co-ops, co-housing ownership, and buy-back programs;
• the CMHC should continue to fund Habitat for Humanity’s Indigenous Housing Program;
• the CMHC should look at new technologies for housing construction; and,
• the CMHC should ensure that greater numbers of young Inuit are trained in construction trades.