The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for June, 2005
Action for Neighbourhood Change to Address Homelessness
In May, Federal Housing Minister Joe Fontana announced $4 million in funding for Action for Neighbourhood Change (ANC) – a new learning initiative in five cities throughout Canada that hopes to find long-term solutions to homelessness. It will explore approaches to locally-driven neighbourhood revitalization projects that can enhance the capacity of individuals and families to build and sustain strong, healthy communities. A big part of ANC’s mandate is to document activities, processes and outcomes, and use that knowledge to improve the way Canadians address and manage complex social issues like homelessness.
ANC is funded by the Government of Canada and coordinated by United Way Canada—Centraide Canada in partnership with their local affiliates, as well as the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, Tamarack: An Institute for Community Engagement and the National Film Board of Canada. Working with local residents, not-for-profit agencies and public and private sector partners, the initiative combines resources in new ways to develop local solutions for community development and revitalization. The NFB will provide video cameras and training for youth in all five pilot neighbourhoods. This will help establish communications linkages and capture important lessons learned in a personal, creative and meaningful way.
ANC, which is a two-year initiative, will begin in Surrey, Regina, Thunder Bay, Toronto and Halifax and based on the results, may be expanded to a number of additional communities. Funding is being provided through numerous federal programs within Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Health Canada, and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
“This initiative provides a unique opportunity for Surrey residents to engage in a unique community partnership, where we can build on the current strengths and relationships to achieve sustainable community change,” said Linda Western, Project Manager, United Way of the Lower Mainland.
Studies have long shown that as poverty concentrates in particular neighbourhoods, housing tends to deteriorate, while the incidence of difficulties like unemployment, illiteracy, substance abuse and crime tends to rise. Left unchecked, these increased stresses on a neighbourhood can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of decline and decay. By building capacity and leadership at the local level, while providing better coordination of federal programs, the ANC pilot initiative will help communities strengthen their ability to build healthy, vibrant neighbourhoods, Western said.
Action for Neighbourhood Change begins with all stakeholders coming together to identify assets – leaders, facilitators, organizations and networks – and then develop a vision for neighbourhood renewal.
York University Hosts First National Homelessness Conference
Conference Attracts More Than 800
Housing advocates initially hoped that a few hundred people might be eager enough to travel to Toronto to attend a national conference on homelessness—the first of its kind in Canada. They were ambitious in their hopes that at least 100 people would be willing to share their experiences dealing with the national crisis.
“We were more than overwhelmed, however, after we were flooded with presentation proposals and more than 800 people sent in their registrations,” said York University associate professor and chair of the conference organizing committee Steve Gaetz. “We had to free up more room!”
“This conference is about sharing and collaboration – finding solutions by learning from people on the ground, doing the work,” Gaetz told Housing Again. “Often there is a gap between available knowledge and decision-makers, so the fact that a lot of municipal staff were interested was quite encouraging.”
Gaetz was expecting about 100 requests from presenters, but instead received 350 submissions for workshops, book and video launches, research presentations and panel discussions.
“The submissions were very impressive and came from all over Canada and abroad and from a variety of sectors,” he said. “We had to create more space.”
The conference, which was held May 17 – May 20 at York University in Toronto, was a national, cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary forum, Gaetz said. It was designed to be inclusive, integrating the experiences and perspectives of all stakeholders and sectors, including researchers, policy and decision makers, service providers, and individuals who are homeless or at-risk of being homeless.
“It was an opportunity to explore the links between research and action, and to move towards effective long-term solutions,” Gaetz said. “In spite of our efforts to date, homelessness continues to exist. The time was right to bring together researchers of all stripes into one forum. We wanted to encourage collaboration during and after the conference, to identify and address any gaps in the current knowledge.”
Federal housing minister Joe Fontana opened the conference, followed by a keynote address by journalist and author Linda McQuaig entitled, “Resurrecting the Notion of the Common Good.”
The conference closed with a final session featuring a panel of stakeholders from across Canada. They provided a summary of the key themes developed during the conference, as well as a range of identified solutions (both national and local) to homelessness. And finally, the panel discussed the next steps in developing a national action plan for homelessness.
Watch for a summary report coming soon.
Federal Budget Promises Unconditional Housing Cash
Last month’s federal 2005 budget vote drama approved in principle the NDP-Liberal deal, which promises $1.6 billion in funding—cash that isn’t conditional on matching provincial contributions—for desperately-needed social housing. There are two big roadblocks, however, which could render the promise a distant dream.
First, the minority Liberal government must continue to survive anticipated confidence votes in the House of Commons. The second hurdle—politicians must work co-operatively to pass the budget bills that are attached to each budget before any new funding streams are approved.
And just in case you think that isn’t a big deal…the 2004 federal budget hasn’t been passed as yet!
Fontana Hints to New National Housing Framework
The federal government spent the first half of the year consulting with provinces, municipalities, developers and housing providers about a new national housing framework. Federal Housing Minister Joe Fontana spoke recently at the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association annual conference in Montreal providing a few hints as to what is to come in the new framework, which is expected to be released soon.