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 April, 2007
Advocates Fight for National Affordable Housing Strategy
Although opinions may vary about the timing of the next federal election, housing advocates have already been hard at work. The National Coalition on Housing and Homelessness is currently preparing a letter which will be sent to all national political parties outlining what advocates would like to see in party platforms.
Coalition Co-chair Michael Shapcott, Senior Fellow, The Wellesley Institute, which has developed a Blueprint to End Homelessness in Toronto, spoke with Housing Again about what he hopes federal candidates will commit to when an election is called.
“We are still waiting for a national housing strategy,” Shapcott said. “Without a comprehensive strategy, we are left with the current patchwork of project funding—this isn’t sustainable or effective.”
“We need a cohesive, practical, and fully-costed national plan to end homelessness,” he said.
Wellesley has also launched a housing and homelessness “wiki” – an on-line site to share information and foster collaboration, which as has already drawn hundreds of visitors.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has called for a national affordable housing strategy. In partnership with MediaEdge Publishing, FCM distributes an educational magazine, Forum, six times a year in English and French. The January/February edition featured housing and homelessness, including a report on the “mixed review” advocates and housing providers are giving the federal government’s new Homelessness Partnering Strategy. There are also features exploring the work done by municipalities across Canada to end homelessness.
Advocates have also begun preparing for a provincial election in Ontario.
A recent report by Campaign 2000 found that Ontario’s child poverty rate has been inching up since 2001 and is now at 17.4 per cent. Based on the latest Statistics Canada data, the 2006 Report Card on Child Poverty in Ontario states that 478,480 children - or one in every six - are living in poverty. The average low-income family is living in deeper poverty now than they were twelve years ago. As candidates prepare for an October election, advocates have called on all political parties to commit to developing a Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario. Quebec and Newfoundland each have provincial poverty reduction strategies, and Nova Scotia recently established an all-party commission to develop a strategy.
Kelowna Downtown Youth Centre
One of this year’s winners is Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs, for their Kelowna Downtown Youth Centre located in a converted heritage two-storey elementary school. The centre provides one-stop coordinated service for young people (ages 13 to 18) who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness, said Mike Gawliuk, Area Director, Youth and Family Services. The centre looks for specific community outcomes when assessing program effectiveness, Gawliuk said, such as a reduction in an open street drug scene; increased referrals to alcohol and drug treatment services; improved public order; reduced risk to individuals at large; and enhanced public safety and security. During the day, youth can access food, clothing, hygiene supplies, showers, laundry facilities, storage, a phone and computer, counselling and information sessions, job search programs, a message centre, recreation opportunities and community resources. The program operates five days per week from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. At night, the centre is designed to be a safe, no barrier overnight and temporary shelter, specifically for youth ages 13 to 18 years, which is open 7 days a week. Youth come into the centre at 8:00 p.m. and leave at 8:00 a.m. The program also operates during the day on weekends. The gym area is partitioned to accommodate male and female youth in safe, separate, sleeping environments. Showers and laundry are also available. The shelter works in conjunction with the day services to provide a full range of supports to youth who are at-risk or are homeless. The evening shelter is the first stage in a multi-stage approach to transitional housing for youth, complemented by a full range of off site residential services. A variety of on site programs provide wraparound service and support to meet the needs of youth. These include street outreach; parent and teen mediation; mental health outreach; youth employment and training services; a self-help group for parents; family and youth counselling; and a restorative justice program as an alternative to the courts for minor offences. In addition, addictions workers as well as social services staff from government, the local school board and community agencies visit the centre and work with the youth individually or in groups. The centre has partnerships with faith groups, service clubs, retailers, and non-profit and community service organizations. It also has support from the corporate sector, all levels of government, the judicial system, and the educational community.
Federal Budget Disappoints on Housing Front
In 2003, Raising the Roof launched an interactive, bilingual Web site called Shared Learnings on Homelessness. With major funding from partners Direct Energy and RBC, Shared Learnings provides a directory listing of services and initiatives for homeless and at-risk individuals as well as resources to assist frontline staff, managers and volunteers working to address the problem of homelessness in their communities. Use this site to find out more about what is happening in cities, towns and rural areas across Canada. Link to others working within the homelessness sector, share your experiences and learn from theirs.
CHRA Congress 2007
The Caledon Institute of Social Policy has released a report on the recent federal budget, Mixed Brew for the 'Coffee Shop' Budget. The report says the budget has several positive measures, most notably the Working Income Tax Benefit, the Registered Disability Savings Plan and the proposed changes to the Equalization program. However, the funds could have been far better spent on an increased Canada Child Tax Benefit, additional child care spaces or affordable housing, the report said.