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 November, 2006
Attention Focuses on Expiring Affordable Housing Initiatives
Affordable housing activists have been working overtime recently to draw attention to the expiring Affordable Housing Initiative programs. Local and national media have responded positively by focusing stories and editorials on the need to build affordable housing. Along with these efforts, on-going advocacy by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has helped produce a notice of motion in Parliament calling for a three- year renewal of funding for the programs.
Canadian Housing and Renewal Association Executive Director Sharon Chisholm was instrumental in organizing a well-attended news conference on October 19 in Ottawa. CHRA also convened a meeting of provincial groups to discuss how to push a stronger housing agenda for Canada. And other activists organized a follow-up media conference on Parliament Hill on October 26, with Liberal leader Bill Graham, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP leader Jack Layton.
“We are calling upon the Conservative Government not to cut these essential programs and to announce that they will be continued before we go into the budget process,” said CHRA President, Karen Charlton. “With the NHI, Canada has begun to make real progress in creating the necessary infrastructure of coordinated services and supportive housing and in making more efficient use of existing resources.”
“But the scale of the problem is growing and if we are to achieve the goal of eliminating homelessness from our streets and cities, these efforts and funding must continue,” Charlton said.
“In a country like Canada, with a recently announced surplus of $13 billion, homelessness should be falling and not rising. Canada’s Aboriginal communities on and off reserve need immediate attention if we are to harness the increasingly important potential of young Aboriginals,” she added.
CHRA also wants to see an increase in funding for affordable housing. “Affordable, mixed housing can play a major role in lifting neighbourhoods that are in social, economic and physical decline into places of opportunity,” said Chisholm.
“But with so few units of affordable housing being built—under 6,000 new units per year in the past five years, compared to 25,000 per year in the past—poverty concentrations continue to grow in Canadian cities, and those who are least able to pay the rent end up on the streets,” added Chisholm.
CHRA has also called on the federal government to put in place a low income housing retrofit program to replace the one cancelled. Energy retrofits are an effective way to reduce emissions, while also providing some relief from growing “energy poverty.”
After the media conference last week, Federal Housing Minister Diane Finley issued a statement saying the federal government is committed to helping the homeless, but not necessarily through existing programs. The Minister said that the government is studying how best to alleviate homelessness and promised that any new programs will have at least as much money as the existing ones.
McMan Focuses on Youth Strengths in Calgary
Since 1975, McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association in Calgary has been providing quality care and services to children, youth and families in communities throughout Alberta. McMan is a responsive, regionally-based and locally-guided organization, one that initiates, delivers, and sustains the services and programs each community needs. Two principles make their services unique—they focus on the strengths of homeless youth and tailor programs to meet their individual needs. “We look at each young person as an individual with unique needs and strengths,” said Executive Director Linda Hughes. “Everyone has their own issues and concerns, but they also have many things they’ve done very well—that is what we focus and build on.”McMan programs and services are developed in response to local community issues, needs and capacities and are delivered by local professionals and volunteers who understand—and are sensitive to—the values, conditions and realities of the people they serve, Hughes said.Although the programs and services offered vary according to the needs of individual regions, they most often include: Family Support, Supported Independent Living / Youth Transitions to Adulthood, Foster Care, Youth Homelessness, Crime Prevention, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Community Outreach, Day Care, Support for People with Disabilities, Family Resource Centres and Family Group Conferencing. McMan also sponsors a Youth Justice Program, which supports individuals coming out of young offender centres. The youth homelessness programs, run by Manager Darlene Petrie, include Wellington Place, Hope Homes Program and Hope Homes Program for Aboriginal Youth. These programs provide safe accommodation, support and education for young people aged sixteen to twenty-one years (twelve to seventeen years of age in Southeast) who are homeless and want to make positive changes in their lives. The programs for homeless youth include a short-term shelter and long-term programs—two years and longer—such as a group home and a host families program.In 2005, McMan sponsored a research project, Seeking Sanctuary: An Exploration of the Realities of Youth Homelessness in Calgary, which can be found on their website. www.mcman.ab.ca The study had three primary objectives: to enumerate non-status homeless youth in the City of Calgary; to identify the correlates to youth homelessness; and to identify strategies and actions that will ameliorate the problem of youth homelessness. Among other findings, the report concluded that in the absence of effective intervention, homeless youth become homeless adults.
November 22nd is National Housing Day
November 22nd is National Housing Day to commemorate the anniversary of the Big City Mayors declaring homelessness a national disaster in 1998. Events will be held around the country to draw attention to the continual and critical shortage of affordable housing, as well as the potential end of SCPI, RRAP and other federal programs that assist people who are homeless.
Blueprint to End Homelessness
The Wellesley Institute has launched a Blueprint to End Homelessness in Toronto – part of an ongoing initiative to focus on housing solutions. Wellesley is also committed to working with local housing and homelessness advocates in other communities to assist them in developing local plans. Michael Shapcott facilitated a day-long workshop in Halifax and future sessions are planned in Edmonton, Vancouver and Montreal, with more to follow. www.wellesleyinstitute.com/theblueprint
National Network on Youth Homelessness
On behalf of the St. John's Youth Conference Planning Committee, Sheldon Pollett reports that work is proceeding quickly on developing a National Network on Youth Homelessness. The Transition Team, which also includes Jill Pitman, April Williams, Sean Gadon, and Barry Reider , participated in a preliminary meeting in Toronto on November 1st to discuss the initial steps in establishing a larger Steering Committee tasked with developing the network. In addition, Pollett said, a report will be presented at the Raising the Roof’s board meeting on November 3rd. The network will also be discussed at the national Youth Homelessness Learning Community meeting being launched by Eva's Initiatives in Toronto (November 2-3), to determine how this group can support the formation and goals of the new network.