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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, 2009

Feature: Toronto Housing Plan Supports Homeless Youth

A long strike by city employees this summer didn’t stop Toronto City Council from strongly endorsing the Housing Opportunities Toronto (HOT) Action Plan 2010-2020 following more than a year of consultations. As part of those consultations, the city provided some financial assistance to 23 organizations and groups to consult directly with vulnerable client groups, such as victims of domestic abuse, youth, homeless people, incarcerated men and women, seniors, people with disabilities and newcomers. As a result the plan identifies specific recommendations to support homeless youth.

Containing 67 actions to be undertaken by the City of Toronto, along with the federal and provincial governments, HOT proposes new investment of $484 million annually for the next 10 years to help 257,700 households struggling with high housing costs or inadequate accommodation.

A key component is The Toronto Housing Charter – Opportunity for All, which will guide council and staff in their efforts to assist those who often face challenges finding affordable housing, from newcomers and youth, to single parents and those with disabilities. It states that “all residents have the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination” as provided by the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The ten-year plan focuses on upgrading existing private and social housing, building 1,000 new affordable rental homes annually and making home ownership more affordable. A critical component of the plan is its housing-first approach, said Mayor David Miller, which is based on the principle that the best way to end homelessness is to assist people to find permanent housing and provide appropriate supports so they can remain in their homes.

A few highlights include:

• Partnering with community organizations, labour groups, colleges and universities during the housing construction period to provide residents, particularly youth, with skill development, apprenticeship and employment opportunities.

• Actively encouraging the provincial government to commit to implementing a fully-funded, long-term affordable housing plan, and to upload all costs of social housing.

• Actively encouraging the federal government to commit to creating a National Housing Strategy with predictable, long-term funding for affordable housing and homelessness services.

• Identifying at risk groups: In addition to those who are homeless, many other vulnerable groups require assistance to find suitable housing—people with mental health issues or physical disabilities, people with environmental sensitivities, Aboriginal people, immigrants and refugees, victims of violence, low-income families with children, youth leaving child welfare care, and seniors all have distinct needs for housing and supports, the plan states.

Community Spotlight: Offering a RaY of Hope for Youth in Winnipeg

Three winners were announced in April for Eva’s Initiatives Award for Innovation for their outstanding work with homeless youth. In its fourth year, the Eva’s Initiatives Award for Innovation is generously sponsored by CIBC. Each winning organization, previously profiled in issues of Housing Again, received a prize of $5,000.

One of this year’s short-listed entries was Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY) in Winnipeg.

RaY’s mission is “to provide youth with what they need, on their terms, to better their lives,” said program director Jason Neufeld in its application. “It’s simple, really. Quick and nimble, the purpose of the organization is to provide access to valuable services to homeless and street-entrenched youth,” he said.

With the intention of offering “wrap-around” services, RaY’s services include:

• Emergency Youth Services (food, clothes, toiletries etc.)

• Addictions, Housing Support, Odd Jobs and Employment Support
• Advocacy, Street Outreach, Mental Health Outreach and Prevention Services

• A Nurse Practitioner and Street Lawyer are also on the way.

“The hope is to move individuals from a state of dependence to independence and from independence to interdependence,” Neufeld wrote.

In addition to youth-oriented goals, the Odd Jobs program has larger community goals. The program looks to engage community organizations, individuals and businesses in addressing the issues of youth homelessness and poverty. The program is a “no-nonsense common sense approach to addressing the poor economic prospects of street-entrenched youth,” Neufeld said.

What makes the program so innovative, he says, is that it involves the business community in addressing these issues. The numbers of partnerships continue to grow as more and more businesses want to get involved either for altruistic reasons or because they want to take advantage of the low-risk labour pool. All honorariums are paid by RaY.

The program, which is guided by youth, has a great success rate because its coordinator works one-on-one with participants and makes every effort to place youth in positions that interest them and cater to their unique abilities.

News Briefs: Alberta Creates Panel to Examine Youth Homelessness

A panel will review the child welfare system after recent homeless counts in Alberta showed a growing number of young people among those who are homeless.

New York Centre for LGBT Youth

The late actress Bea Arthur is being memorialized on September 14 by getting a residence for homeless LGBT youth named in her honour. Arthur passed away last April at the age of 86. She spent her final years advocating for homeless LGBT youth. A spokesman for the Ali Forney Center, which is naming the residence in her memory, said her efforts helped the center to respond to an “epidemic” of homeless LGBT youth in New York City.

New U.S. Resources on Youth Homelessness

A number of new resources have been released in the United States on youth homelessness.

• The National Alliance to End Homelessness released a new research report that found that youth homelessness is often the result of family breakdown related to abuse, neglect, and conflict in the home. This research brief reviews early intervention and prevention services that will help reduce youth homelessness. The Alliance also issued a paper on youth housing models, funding, and federal policy.

• A new book has been released by author Doris Keeler, Youth Homelessness in America:
The Changing Face of the Homeless, that says that as many as 1.6 million children are homeless sometime during the year.

• Almost 200,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in New York are unemployed, not enrolled in school and lack caring adults to help them, the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy said in a new report. Disconnected youth are more likely to face future unemployment, low-wages, substance abuse, homelessness and incarceration, according to the center.


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