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The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.

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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, 2008

Feature: Vote for Housing in the Federal Election

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper prepares to dissolve Parliament in the coming days and spark a federal election mid-October, housing advocates ready themselves to ensure affordable housing makes it onto the campaign agenda. A lot is at stake—federal housing agreements expire barely months after the election making it very difficult for service providers to plan. In the last federal budget, housing wasn’t even mentioned. And some speculate renewal of housing programs was callously left as a campaign carrot.

Affordable housing was a focus during the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) annual meeting. Affordable housing protects children from poverty and turns lives around, Ontario's Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Jim Watson told the municipal leaders, but the federal government “doesn’t care,” he charged. Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Monte Solberg was quick to respond with his own accusation claiming Ontario is “leaving needy families without homes because it hasn’t spent the money it already has,” he said, including $80 million in funds for Aboriginal housing.

Housing programs due to expire are being reviewed to “make sure they result in the best outcome for the people receiving the money and for taxpayers,” Solberg said.

The minister recently admitted in a letter to Canadian Housing Renewal Association that housing and homelessness issues are the responsibility of all levels of government, as well as the private and non-profit sectors. He also acknowledged that the need and demand for assistance is high across Canada.
“We’re all waiting for a federal election and want to make housing a national issue and get it on the front burner,” said Sharad Kerur, Executive Director of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) after hearing the speakers at the AMO meeting. AMO used data collected by ONPHA to create a social housing wait list map, which together with the report by ONPHA documents the need for more affordable housing in Ontario.

Municipal leaders across the country agree housing must be a priority during the election. The next federal election must be fought over issues that affect the daily lives of Canadians— affordable housing, jobs and roads, says the head of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

Housing advocates have been busy over the summer working on submissions for provincial and federal committees developing poverty reduction strategies. The Wellesley Institute, a founding member of the 25-in-5 Poverty Reduction Network, welcomes the Ontario commitment to develop a poverty reduction strategy and has provided the government with specific recommendations in three major areas: health equity, affordable housing and the third (non-profit) sector. These groups, along with Poverty Watch Ontario and Raising the Roof and many others, are expected to take a leading role in ensuring affordable housing is a priority campaign agenda promise for all federal candidates.

Community Spotlight: Bringing the Realities of the Street out of the Gutter

Resource Assistance for Youth, RaY, is a well-known street-level agency located in the heart of the West Broadway community in Winnipeg, Manitoba. RaY is dedicated to providing youth with what they need—on their terms—to better their lives. The agency provides a “no-nonsense approach” that has proven to be extremely successful and RaY continues to build upon its reputation as a “rogue, independent agency” that enjoys real credibility with street-entrenched youth.

The key to RaY’s success, staff says, has been the ability to respond “on the fly.” The ability to react to issues and crises immediately is important when working with a population that continues to fall through the cracks.

“The system is a slow beast and is often difficult to navigate causing unneeded stressors to lives that are already dealt a crappy hand,” says Executive Director Kelly Holmes. “RaY’s non-judgmental wrap-around service strives to respond to the whole individual and not merely their symptoms.”

Although there are different departments at RaY dealing with different issues, the intent is to offer a continuum of services that take into account the myriad of issues marginalized youth face every day, Holmes said. In cases where RaY is unable to sufficiently deal with a client’s needs in-house, staff are able to broker relationships with outside agencies and facilities better suited to address specific issues all while maintaining a close relationship with the youth throughout the process.

The departments include Emergency Youth Services, Outreach, Addictions, Advocacy, Housing, Prevention, Odd Jobs and a Food Program.

Gutter Aid

RaY has launched a new public awareness initiative—Gutter Aid. This unique endeavour is a four day event featuring performance, music, art and discussion in an effort to promote awareness and understanding with regards to youth homelessness and poverty. “Meant to shake the public out of their self-induced comas, RaY continues with their grand vision of shifting paradigms – getting the stories behind the stories, so to speak,” said Holmes.

The event will be split into three separate initiatives targeting different groups. The day-time youth driven “View From the Gutter” will feature RaY’s Youth Speakers’ Bureau and will target high school students and educators. A satirical look at life on the streets and the public’s reactions to street youth will be presented in a mock newscast style reminiscent of This Hour Has 22 Minutes or The Daily Show.

Complementing the humorous aspects of the presentation will be hard-hitting stories told by street youth themselves. The film produced for this event will also be used at the Partners Solving Youth Homelessness Conference in November. Gutter Aid begins on October 14 and runs until October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

NEWS BRIEFS: New on Raising the Roof’s Shared Learnings on Homelessness Web site

Cyrus Centre, in Abbotsford, British Columbia, is a drop-in counselling and resource centre for at-risk youth. The centre provides a safe, non-threatening and supportive environment where all youth are welcome, accepted and helped. Services include showers, computer access, meals, extreme weather shelter and clothing vouchers.

The National Eating Disorder Information Centre, in Toronto, Ontario, has a vision of a culture that promotes and supports individuals engaged in healthy lifestyles regardless of ascribed or inherent characteristics, physical appearance and social status. NEDIC promotes healthy lifestyles, including both healthy eating and appropriate, enjoyable exercise. Using a client-centred approach means that that staff give people information and guidance about every option so that clients can make informed choices for themselves.

Eastern Health, in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, is the largest integrated health organization in Newfoundland and Labrador serving a regional population of more than 290,000 and offering tertiary or high-level health care services province-wide. Formed on April 1, 2005 from the merger of seven health organizations, Eastern Health offers the full continuum of health care services. Eastern Health operates seven acute care facilities (hospitals), six community health centres, 12 long-term care facilities, the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre and the L.A. Miller Rehabilitation Centre.

Partners Solving Youth Homelessness Conference

A catalyst for knowledge-sharing and collective action on youth homelessness in Canada, the Partners Solving Youth Homelessness Conference will be held November 19 – 21, 2008 at the Holiday Inn on King Street in Toronto.
Join front-line service providers working with homeless and at-risk youth...researchers specializing in youth homelessness...corporate leaders...policy makers...government representatives...homeless and formerly homeless youth from provinces and territories across the country.
Hosted by Raising the Roof, in conjunction with a Conference Steering Committee that represents youth and youth-serving agencies across Canada, this groundbreaking event will bring together a diverse group of Canadian stakeholders focused on youth homelessness. It will also set the stage for the release, in early 2009, of Raising the Roof’s National Strategy to Solve Youth Homelessness.

Walking Home in support of homeless youth

Toronto, ON

Mark your calendar for Sunday, November 2, 2008. That’s the date of the 5th Annual Floyd Honey Foundation Memorial Walk in Toronto, presented by Direct Energy – better known as Walking Home. The walk begins at City Hall Rotunda and takes participants on a 5 K ramble through downtown Toronto. Proceeds will support Raising the Roof’s Youthworks initiative designed to break the cycle of homelessness among young Canadians. To read more about this fabulous fundraiser and the extraordinary man who was its inspiration – and to learn how you can enter or contribute in another way – visit the Walking Home website or contact Maureen Gallagher.


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