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 December, 2010
Feature: Canadians Support National Youth Homelessness Awareness Day
The federal government recently recognized October 1 as National Seniors Day and continues to recognize November 20 as National Child Day. Although minister Diane Finley made a flurry of announcements across the country for programs supporting youth employment, the Conservatives have not to date supported Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett’s motion to declare November 17 as National Youth Homelessness Awareness Day.
That reticence however didn’t stop Canadians from showing their support.
“I had the pleasure of joining Richard Branson and representatives from Virgin and Raising the Roof in serving breakfast to young people at Eva’s Phoenix, a transitional housing facility in Toronto,” said Bennett who had the support of Liberal youth critic MP Justin Trudeau for her motion. “I thank Virgin and Raising the Roof for all that they have done to bring attention to the issue of homeless youth in Canada.”
“I think it is time to give a voice to those who cannot be heard, because the issue of youth homelessness in Canada is a fundamental problem to which we need a solution,” Bennett said.
During the launch of the campaign on November 17, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, asked Canadians to call on the federal government to pass Motion 504 and declare November 17 a National Youth Homelessness Awareness Day. Drives in Vancouver and Toronto also pushed for greater awareness and asked Canadians to take action and show their support for the more than 65,000 Canadian youth who don’t have a place to call home.
Beyond attending the local events, the campaign also listed four small steps that Canadians can take to make a difference in the lives of at-risk and homeless youth:
• Support local charities working to help at-risk
and homeless youth across Canada who need
• Help raise funds. Virgin Mobile has raised more
than $750,000 to date for Virgin Unite, in order
to directly support young people. To raise
additional funds, Virgin Mobile is calling on
Canadians to text REGEN to 30333 to donate $5.
• Show support by signing the petition in support
of Motion 504 (thousands have done so already.
• Support businesses that give youth a helping hand
with mentorship and hands-on work experience.
“Motion 504 sheds a much needed light on a national issue, helping to make youth homelessness a policy priority and increase the potential for government funding,” said Bennett. “No young person should have to face a night on the streets.”
Community Spotlight: Facility Opens in Barrie for Homeless Youth Fleeing Abuse
A new study by Ryerson University researchers in Toronto found that homeless teens who have fled violence in their homes may be motivated to have sex at an earlier age because they are seeking approval from their partners. They may also participate in risky sexual behaviours putting their health and lives at risk.
The findings were startling. The researchers found that nearly forty-two per cent of the homeless teens studied reported they were sexually abused as children. Sixty-two per cent of females said they were abused compared to just under twenty-seven per cent of males.
Fortunately, homeless youth in Barrie who are fleeing family violence will finally have a safe place to call home.
The Government of Canada, through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Youth Haven Barrie recently celebrated the grand opening of a 20-bed facility for homeless youth in Barrie. CMHC provided $551,106 through the Shelter Enhancement Program (SEP). SEP assists in repairing, rehabilitating and improving existing shelters for women and their children, youth or men who are victims of family violence. It also provides financial assistance for acquisition or construction of new shelters and second-stage housing where needed.
Youth Haven Barrie is Simcoe County’s only emergency shelter for homeless and abused teens between the ages of 16 – 21.
“This funding has enabled us to open our home and our hearts to many more of the homeless youth in our area,” said Cherry Laxton, Executive Director of Youth Haven Barrie. “The new house allows us to say, ‘Welcome home’ to those who don’t know the stability and love that a home can bring, and in opening our doors to them we offer the comfort and peace of mind that every child should know.”
For the past 22 years, Youth Haven has provided emergency shelter, food, clothing, life skills, plans of action and after care services to at-risk youth in need of guidance and support. Eighty per cent of the clients are victims of some form of abuse with the remaining 20 per cent suffering from some form of mental health issue or drug addiction. All of the youth utilizing the services are treated with dignity and respect and are given the opportunity to heal in a loving and supportive environment.
For the Ryerson study, researchers gathered information from 179 homeless youth, aged 16 to 21, from five homeless shelters in Toronto and the surrounding area. Those who were sexually abused had their first sexual encounter, on average, at age 14. That is two to three years younger than the general Canadian population, said the Ryerson University researchers.
“For homeless teens, especially young women, being sexually abused as children may make these young people think sex is a way to make someone like them,” said Trevor Hart, an associate professor of psychology and director of Ryerson’s HIV Prevention Lab. “As a result they are more likely to start having sex at an earlier age.”
News Briefs: HUMA Report Calls for National Housing Plan
Yet another report calls on Ottawa to create a detailed plan to fight poverty and a long term national housing and homelessness plan—but this one is by a committee of parliament, the Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development. The government has 120 days to respond. Tabled in the House of Commons November 17, the 300-page report calls on Ottawa to immediately start working on a federal poverty reduction plan in consultation with provinces, municipalities and Aboriginal governments.
Other key recommendations of the report include:
• Creation of a new federal transfer fund to
support provincial poverty reduction initiatives;
• Increasing Canada Child Tax Benefit and
Supplement to $5,000 from the current $3,436
within five years;
• A refundable Disability Tax Credit and improved
• A national child care program; and
• More funding for Aboriginal housing.
The House of Commons also concluded debate on Bill C-304 - a private member’s bill from MP Libby Davies that would require the federal government to create a comprehensive national housing plan for Canada. The bill requires that the federal government also consult broadly with the provinces, territories, municipalities, Aboriginal groups, private and non-profit organizations and others and report back to the Commons within six months.
HPS Funding Renewed for Three Years
On November 5, 2010, the Government of Canada announced that it will continue to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness by renewing its Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) for another three years at current funding levels.
National Housing Day
On November 22, Canadians recognized National Housing Day with events in their local communities. YWCA Toronto and Raising the Roof celebrated the day at the historic site of the
“Toronto Poor House” built in 1848. The historic façade of the house was recently restored as the centrepiece of the YWCA’s new Elm Centre, which will provide 300 affordable homes for women, children and people of aboriginal ancestry in downtown Toronto. Other events were also held in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Kitchener-Waterloo, St. John, Ottawa, Montréal, Richmond, St. John’s, and many other communities across the country.