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 September, 2006
Provincial Elections Highlight the Urgent Need for More Affordable Housing
While affordable housing activists are on alert for a federal election call possibly within the next year, many are also busy mounting campaigns during provincial elections across the country. Their efforts seem to be having an impact.
After campaigning on a pledge to build more affordable housing, the PEI Liberal Party ousted the reigning Conservative government in the provincial election last May. Recently, Manitoba Premier Gary Doer won another majority government for the NDP making the same promises to build more housing while activists in Quebec worked hard to keep the issue front and centre during their provincial election earlier this year.
And groups and organizations are also gearing up for provincial elections in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.
But first it’s Ontario turn which has its first fixed-date election on October 10, including a referendum vote on whether to change from the current first-past-the-post to a mixed-member proportional system. In the lead-up to the election, however, anti-poverty and housing activists are making sure the issue of affordable housing gets its fair share of time on the campaign agenda.
A new group has recently formed in Toronto, Network for Poverty Reduction, which will be issuing a challenge to provincial political candidates and parties to come up with a plan to reduce poverty rates by 25 per cent in five years. Contact information is 416-597-5820, ext. 5152, with more information is expected in the coming weeks.
The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) is planning a day of action for Wednesday, September 26 leading up to the Ontario election. Activists are calling on all political parties to commit to build new affordable housing, increase the minimum wage and social assistance rates and provide access without fear to government services for non-status people. TDRC is looking for more group endorsements and people to get involved in planning this major event. They hope people will organize an action in their local community and join a march to Queen’s Park.
Campaign 2000 has issued a report which calls on all Ontario political parties to commit to a “Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario” as they finalize their party platforms for the October election. They have also issued a campaign flyer for distribution. They will be releasing a national poverty report in the coming weeks.
A coalition of groups has released a discussion document for the provincial election campaign describing key issues in mental health and addictions in Ontario. “Ontario Election 2007: Focus on Addiction and Mental Health” was produced by CMHA, Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Community Mental Health and Addiction Programs, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and Addictions Ontario. The partnership is calling for a strong provincial mental health and addictions system, including improvements to housing and supports.
Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association is also working to keep affordable housing on the public agenda throughout the campaign.
Some of the provincial party announcements to date include—
Ontario Liberal Party
After getting out of the affordable housing business in the mid-90s, in 2003 the Ontario Liberals got back to building new housing for low-income people, rent controls and more recently rent supplements. Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty promises real protection for tenants and more investment in affordable housing. “We believe the provincial government has a responsibility to help provide affordable housing,” he said. “We will match federal support to create almost 20,000 new housing units for needy Ontario families. We will give priority to the development of affordable housing on Ontario government-owned lands.”
The Liberals also established the Ontario Mortgage and Housing Initiative to provide competitive financing rates for non-profit, co-operative and commercial developers who want to build rental housing in Ontario.
Although no specific affordable housing plan has been announced, the Ontario NDP promise to help the most vulnerable. “Let’s build that affordable housing,” NDP Leader Howard Hampton said. “And let’s stop the clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement – which robs $1,500 a year from our poorest children.” The NDP plan includes uploading all downloaded programs which are a provincial responsibility including social housing. This would mean an extra $645 million for Ontario municipalities in 2008 and $1.4 billion over a four-year plan.
Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory has called for the municipal-provincial review committee, which is currently examining who pays for what, to finish its report by the end of the year rather than Spring of 2008. PC policy is “guided by two principles – that local property taxes should be used principally for local needs; and a fix of provincial municipal finances must be a long-term one with stable, reliable funding.”
While the former Conservative government believed building affordable housing was not a provincial responsibility, Tory promises to continue the current programs, including more revitalization projects to transform aging social housing; more flexibility in the use of funding dollars; growth in the supply of co-operative housing; and a more “realistic” minimum wage.
St. John’s Hosts First National Youth Homelessness Conference
St. John's, NL
What can I do to eliminate youth homelessness? That is a question participants will ask themselves at the first ever national conference focusing exclusively on youth homelessness—the fastest growing sub-population of those who are homeless and under-housed in Canada.
On September 26 – 29, St. John’s, NL will be the site of a very exciting event—Beyond the Street: Youth & Communities Taking Action on Homelessness. The conference is important because it will profile initiatives and draw attention to the people who are leading efforts to address youth homelessness across Canada.
“By harnessing the creative energy and ideas of youth, homelessness organizations, and other organizations interested in creating a better community, including faith-based organizations and business leaders, the conference will help build the foundation for ongoing national, regional, and local action to respond to homelessness in Canada,” committee member Bruce Pearce (representing St. John’s Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness, Raising the Roof, and Stella Burry Community Services) told Housing Again.
Beyond the Street will host 220 delegates from all over the country at The Battery Hotel and Suites the last week of September in St. John’s, which was named the 2006 Cultural Capital of Canada for cities with populations between 50,000 and 125,000, and is the oldest city in North America. The conference will be hosted by the St. John’s Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness in partnership with Raising the Roof, the Urban Core Support Network, the National Homelessness Initiative, Service Canada, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation.
Conference activities will profile existing challenges and emerging trends in youth homelessness and will showcase successful Canadian efforts to address them. The agenda is designed to maximize shared learning, networking, and collaboration among delegates.
In addition, Beyond the Street is committed to creating a learning and working environment inclusive of Canada’s two official Languages. All plenary sessions in addition to various non-plenary sessions will be delivered with simultaneous translation services available.
Expected outcomes include reinforcing existing community-based homelessness networks and building partnerships; showcasing successful Canadian initiatives to address homelessness that actively engage youth in finding solutions and taking leadership; and developing strategies and action plans to take back to our communities.
For registration information contact the conference coordinator Leslie King at 1-709-743-2589 or email@example.com
Helping Youth in Ottawa Access Jobs
Housing Again, in partnership with Raising the Roof’s Youthworks initiative, is presenting a series of profiles of youth-serving agencies. The profile that follows is the sixth in a series of articles about agencies that are doing important work to help homeless and at-risk youth.Rideau Street Youth Enterprises (RSYE) in Ottawa is one of the agencies recently recognized by Eva’s Initiatives’ Innovation Awards, through its National Initiative Program, to acknowledge the incredible work being done across Canada to assist homeless youth. RSYE began in 1993 as a four-month pilot project through a cooperative effort between the local business community and social service agencies to make Ottawa’s downtown area a safer and more vibrant place. What began as a temporary project, however, soon became a unique and vital program that serves 60 to 140 young people each year.“RSYE is a social investment—providing opportunities to youth that most businesses consider unemployable,” said Executive Director Jan Sistek. “Our success means we lose our best workers because most businesses try to hang on to them for as long as they can.”Operating a training program for “hard to serve” young adults between the ages of 16 and 25, the goal of the agency is to provide street-involved youth with employment opportunities so they learn the practical skills necessary to enter (or re-enter) the workforce or educational system. RSYE also provides skill development, continuing education and career counselling and support. The number of street-involved youth in Ottawa is growing as is the length of time on the street, said Sistek. Fewer youth are receiving social assistance because of changes to the criteria which means that only about 50 per cent of 16 to 17 year old street-involved youth receive assistance. While most street-involved youth want to work, they face significant barriers including lack of job opportunities, low literacy levels, and lack of appropriate, individualized education and training. In spite of the fact that all levels of government agree youth unemployment is a high priority, there is not enough financial support for programs. RSYE is unique, Sistek said, because it operates as a business competing head to head with other businesses and organizations for contracts. Quality is a high priority at RSYE. Sistek and one other staff member have operated a number of successful initiatives over the years, including a recycling business and a bush clean-up program after the ice storm in 1998. Over 60 per cent of the youth who have completed one of the long-term initiatives either went back to school, entered a training program or found employment. “We give young people a chance and take on a challenge that very few businesses are willing to address,” Sistek said. Rideau Street Youth Enterprises can be reached at 1-613-562-3864.
Walking Home 2006
Raising the Roof is delighted to be a recipient partner in the 3rd Annual Floyd Honey Memorial Walk in downtown Toronto, better known as Walking Home. On Sunday October 22, 2006, walkers will complete a 5K route through downtown Toronto to show their support for young people who are without a place to call home. Proceeds will support Raising the Roof’s Youthworks initiative aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness among youth.
To read more about this special fundraiser and the man who was its inspiration - and to learn how you can take part, visit www.walkinghome.ca. For brochures and pledge forms contact Paula at Raising the Roof at 416-481-1838.
In response to recent news that municipalities have not been forwarded the money expected through the National Homelessness Initiative and SCPI, a number of advocacy actions have been launched to encourage the federal government to renew its commitment to social housing. The current commitment expires March 31, 2007. On September 12, Toronto activists have planned a national day of action to make the same appeal. A forum will be held at 12:00 - 3:30 pm at Holy Trinity Church. For more information contact Street Health, (416) 921-8668 ext. 228.
The National Housing and Homelessness Network, along with the Quebec-based anti-poverty group RAPSIM and Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness, will also participate in a rally in Ottawa at the Canadian War Museum on Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. Events will also take place in a number of Quebec cities, Halifax and other communities across the country.