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, 2008
Feature: Activists Turn Attention to Provincial Budgets
After a disappointing recent federal budget, Community activists reacted positively to the Ontario Budget 2008 last week declaring the document a good “down payment” towards the Liberals’ promised poverty reduction action plan.
“It’s reassuring to see the government has responded to the calls for poverty reduction with some concrete initiatives, but we will be expecting a lot more in the 2009 budget,” says John Campey, Executive Director of the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, a member of the organization of 25 in 5 Network.
The budget included funds for dental coverage for low-income people, a recommendation by Toronto Public Health; much needed cash for social housing repairs, and nutritious food for children in schools. All of these are “good harbingers of the province’s commitment to reducing poverty,” says Campey. “The upcoming community-based consultations promised by the province will go even further to identify a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy that works for all Ontarians”, he added.
The network, however, is eager to see dedicated funds toward an achievable poverty reduction strategy that has hard targets and timelines. Campaign 2000 released its own discussion paper with its recommendations for a poverty reduction plan.
News on other provincial budgets...
Three other provinces also delivered their budgets in the past month and a few others have just completed budget consultations.
Critics slammed the recent budget tabled by the Government of Saskatchewan for failing to adequately deal with the affordable housing crisis. The budget did include $5 million for food banks and Community Based Organizations. Voters in Quebec were spared an early election even though the Parti Québécois decided to vote against the Liberal budget last month. Although the budget included 20,000 new daycare spaces (over four years), there was no new money for affordable housing. In February, the British Columbia government tabled its budget which had a strong focus on the environment, including new initiatives to help make homeownership more affordable and encourage retrofitting homes.
In February, Finance Minister Michael Baker asked Nova Scotians to provide input as the province prepares for the 2008-2009 budget. Nova Scotia’s last budget was delivered in March 2007 without mentioning housing. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador also recently completed its budget consultations in preparation to deliver news on how it plans to spend its expected surplus. The province introduced its poverty reduction strategy two years ago, as did the Province of Quebec.
The Government of Alberta tabled its last budget in April 2007. When introducing his new Cabinet recently, newly-re-elected Premier Ed Stelmach announced the creation of a new ministry—the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, which will help fulfill the government’s plan to “ensure affordable housing is available to all Albertans and to address emerging urban issues.”
The Government of the Northwest Territories hasn’t delivered a budget since February 2007. A few days later, the government announced the consolidation of its housing programs into Housing Choices. The PEI government delivered its last budget in October 2007. And Manitoba budget 2007 was delivered last April which moved forward on its multi-year promise to build more affordable housing.
Community Spotlight: PEI’s WrapAround Helps Homeless Youth Create Personal Strategy
Prince Edward Island
Last month, Housing Again announced the three winners of the annual Eva’s Initiatives Award for Innovation to recognize outstanding work with homeless youth. The winners were chosen from 52 applications received from dedicated organizations working with homeless youth in ten provinces and territories. A seven member panel, knowledgeable about services for homeless youth across Canada, reviewed the applications, narrowed the field down to nine exceptional finalists, and finally selected the winners from the impressive and innovative projects underway in communities across the county.
One of this year’s finalists is the John Howard Society of Prince Edward Island’s WrapAround program—a service that helps homeless or at-risk youth through the assistance of a support team, led by the participant, to create “personalized strategies to meet their needs.”
The John Howard Society of Prince Edward Island, an affiliate of the John Howard Society of Canada, is an incorporated, non-profit organization, which was founded in 1960 to assist Island offenders in the difficult transition from institutional to community living. The Society bases its values on the belief that every individual has inherent worth and potential, despite situations that affect their lives.
In January of 2002, the Society launched the WrapAround Process and to date have assisted over 160 relative or absolute homeless individuals and more than 110 families facing various issues. The program helps participants “build on their strengths while connecting them with their community through available resources.”
The facilitator and team assist the participant to identify their needs in the following areas; housing, employment, medical, social, legal, education, financial, transportation, family, parenting, emotional, behavioural, spiritual, cultural, and safety issues.
While making informed decisions about the planning process, the participant and support team identify strategies to work towards their goals. The goals are stated in measurable ways and are monitored on a regular basis. The length of the process is determined by the individual or family, usually averaging from three to six months.
Although based in Charlottetown, the program’s mobility allows it to extend services to individuals experiencing homelessness in both rural and urban areas across the province.
NEWS BRIEFS: New on Raising the Roof’s Shared Learnings on Homelessness Web site
ARK in Halifax, Nova Scotia is a street-level organization that has a Drop-in Centre which provides a safe place for street-involved and homeless youth 16-24. Like any home, the centre offers daily meals, showers, laundry facilities, and access to other basics like clothing and socks. They also help connect them to vital services in the community, such as legal advice, health care, addiction services, mental health support, education, employment, and housing options.
PECH (Programme d'encadrement clinique et d'hebergement) in Quebec City, Quebec is a community organization providing services to users suffering from severe mental health issues who may also be dealing with the judicial system, substance abuse, homelessness or residential instability.
Richmond Foodbank Society in Richmond British Columbia strives to maintain individual and community health by providing the food security and nourishment needed to sustain health and well-being.
Documenting Health and Homelessness
The National Film Board of Canada and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto have launched a program to help young homeless women to make documentaries about health and homelessness. These works were created through the ground-breaking NFB Filmmaker-in-Residence project at St. Mike’s, led by documentary filmmaker Katerina Cizek. Young women, pregnant or parenting, were brought together to explore the tools of photography and personal expression through new media in the I WAS HERE project, in cooperation with Young Parents No Fixed Address network.