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 July, 2008
Building on the Momentum
The second annual conference on housing and homelessness in Canada, Growing Home: Housing and Homelessness in Canada, invites submission of proposals in any one of a number of key themes. The submission deadline is September 15, 2008. Sponsored by the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary, the conference will be held February 18 – 19, 2009 in Calgary, Alberta.
Building on the momentum of the first Canadian Conference on Homelessness, held in 2005 at York University, the conference supports continuance of the following goals:
• Providing a venue for sharing ideas, experiences, research and practices about homelessness in Canada.
• Addressing a broad range of issues contributing to the complexity of homelessness and focus on diverse homeless sub-populations.
• Engaging all stakeholders in discussions about homelessness in order to reduce the socio-economic, sectoral, and geographical divisions that act as barriers to knowledge mobilization.
• And new for this year: Developing a national coalition of persons dedicated to ending the Canadian housing crisis.
Report Supports Trans-positive Shelter Services
Homeless Female-to-Male (FTM) Transgender/Transsexual people have unique needs, but a new groundbreaking research report claims there is an absence of safe, welcoming shelter space for FTMs. A Wellesley Institute advanced grant prepared by the FTM Safer Shelter Project Research Team (at the 519 Church Street Community Centre), explores the experiences, needs and concerns of FTMs in obtaining safe access to shelter, and provides critical recommendations to city shelters, and both municipal and provincial levels of government to improve access to shelter and housing.
The report, Invisible Men: FTMs and Homelessness in Toronto, says that while the City of Toronto acknowledges the barriers for transgender people seeking shelter, and directs facilities to provide access for both male-to-female and female-to-male shelter residents, there is currently no consensus regarding where FTMs should go for shelter. “FTMs themselves describe a situation where they are unsafe in men’s shelters and unwelcome in women’s.”
Noting an “urgent need” to create new options, The 519 Community Centre partnered with stakeholders and formed the FTM Safer Shelter Project. The project’s principal investigators and research assistants were all members of the Toronto FTM community with the goal of building community capacity to conduct research and take leadership roles in addressing barriers.
Interviews with FTMs revealed that the overwhelming factors contributing to their experiences of homelessness and poverty include loss of family at a young age, histories of abuse, mental health issues, discrimination and marginalization specific to their lives as FTMs in a transphobic society. Most FTMs who were homeless actively avoided the shelter system, choosing instead to sleep outside, couch surf, use substandard housing or the drop-in services of shelters without actually staying in them. These were all seen as preferable options to staying in a men’s shelter because of real fears of violence, and were also preferable to using a woman’s shelter due to a fear that their male identity and personal dignity would be undermined.
Drawing on the findings of the research, the project report lists a number of recommendations directed at shelter providers, the province and the city. Recommendations include funding specialized services for FTMs and training for staff; an anti-violence campaign; utilizing community expertise; improving housing outcomes; funding the development of best practices; conducting regular access and equity reviews; and building trans-positive services. Although directed at the City of Toronto, the report’s findings and conclusions are useful for any housing provider and funder.
The Wellesley Institute’s Advanced Grants program supports and funds community-based research on housing, health equity, poverty, social exclusion, and other social and economic inequalities as key determinants of health disparities.
BladeRunners: A Partnership of Community and Youth
In March, 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. One of this year’s finalists was BladeRunners, a unique initiative for homeless or at-risk youth in West Vancouver.
Sponsored by the Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society (ACCESS), BladeRunners is mandated to build careers in the construction trades for youth with multiple barriers to employment, including homelessness, poverty, minimal work experience, substance misuse and low levels of education. The organization has excellent results: 100 per cent of graduates have job placements after completion of the program and 80 per cent of its graduates are in the trades two years after entry.
BladeRunners began in 1994 on the construction phase of General Motors with 25 street involved youth from one of Canada’s poorest communities, the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. An impressive 20 participants remain working in the trades today. In 1999, the organization was awarded the PEPNet Award from the Washington, D.C.-based National Youth Employment Coalition. BladeRunners was chosen because “they are making trades people out of youth that society had given up on.”
Today BladeRunners has tremendous support from the development community, both union and non-union contractors, and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community agencies. Participants are referred by pre-employment programs, past and/or present BladeRunners and community organizations. Organizers claim the “youth are the greatest ambassadors of the initiative, as they are the ones getting out of bed every morning and putting in an honest days work.”
New on Raising the Roof’s Shared Learnings on Homelessness Web site
Coalition Against Violence - Avalon East in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, is an alliance of community and government agencies dedicated to ending violence in our homes and communities. As an equality seeking organization whose mandate is to tackle violence at its roots, they educate and advocate around the causes of violence, as well as lobby for prevention and early intervention.
Winnipeg Housing & Homelessness Initiative in Manitoba, was jointly established in 2000 by the Government of Canada, Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg, in an effort to revitalize inner-city neighbourhoods, provide affordable housing for low and moderate income citizens and help people at risk of becoming homeless.
The George Spady Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, provides a supervised environment for people who are under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs and require assistance in stabilizing their condition. Services offered are drop-in, overnight shelter, detoxification treatment referrals.
Time For Action on Improving Energy Efficiency in Low-income Housing
From September 29 through October 1, delegates from across Canada will gather in downtown Toronto to identify effective and innovative ways to improve energy efficiency in low-income housing, and develop a roadmap for a national low-income energy efficiency partnership. Time for Action: Tackling Energy Poverty in Canada Through Energy Efficiency, sponsored by Green Communities Canada, will be held at the Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown, which has been awarded a four Green Key Eco-Rating. Time for Action builds on the success of a February 2005 national symposium in Halifax, sponsored by Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. Over 90 delegates urged Canada to match efforts in countries like the U.S. and U.K. in reducing energy poverty through energy savings.
Youth First Ministers Conference
The Youth First Ministers Conference (YFMC) is an annual conference organized by the Youth-Government of Canada providing an opportunity for youth leaders from across the country to make friends, share experiences, discuss issues of importance, and build and develop leadership skills. Held November 21 – 24 in Toronto, the event is also a chance to have fun and celebrate achievements.
Waterloo Region Grades Housing Stability
The Homelessness and Housing Umbrella Group (HHUG) recently released the Waterloo Region Housing Stability Report Card giving the region a “C” in overall housing stability. Using 2006 and 2007 data, the two-page Report Card provides ratings for absolute homelessness, rental housing costs and income, rental housing availability, available support to maintain housing and an overall housing stability grade. The HHUG is a coordinating group for all community groups working on issues of housing and homelessness.