They called it the ‘Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.’ At the beginning, leaders in the city of Edmonton knew this was an unachievable goal, but they stuck with the title. Why? Because they believed it was better to aim for success than to begin by measuring our failure.
Eight years in, much good work has been accomplished, and ‘no, we are not on target to succeed in ten years.‘ The work has always been long-term, but to do it well, it is good for us to continue to aim for success; to continually evaluate what we are doing and why; making our efforts better, stronger and more effective. It is also critical to stay focused on the larger picture, which must include prevention.
The report, A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention describes it well with the following infographic:
Access the report at the following link: http:// www.homelesshub.ca/anewdirection
Last month we reflected on the first goal to End Chronic Homelessness; most of the solutions there focused on providing Accommodation and Supports. In October and November, we examine the second and third goals. The second goal targets the work of prevention.
Unpacking the Second Goal: Prevent Future Homelessness
The new update sets the following targets:
In 2019, people will be diverted from entering the homeless-serving system with an immediate link to community-based prevention supports within five days wherever possible and appropriate
By 2018, corrections, health, and child intervention will report on the number of people discharged into homelessness from public systems on a biennial basis at minimum. Based on figures reported, annual targets will be introduced to achieve zero discharge into homelessness by 2023.
Enhancing homelessness prevention and diversion.
A key to prevention is catching people before they either lose their housing, or slide into homelessness for any length of time. The plan update aims to fill that need by strengthening the ability of Coordinated Access to stabilize people’s housing situations, prevent evictions, and enhance crisis supports so people don’t end up at shelters or in Emergency rooms.
They aim to provide supported referrals that will make flexible housing funds available to agencies that are already providing support services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness. the report says, “a total of 750 individuals will receive supports from these two programs annually when fully implemented.”
Additional proposed measures to prevent homelessness include working with the Government of Alberta, City of Edmonton, and EndPoverty Edmonton to encourage increases to affordable housing stock and portable rent supplements.
Stronger supports and resources for Indigenous communities.
The report highlights: “In 2015, 54% of clients in Housing First programs were Indigenous. Indigenous-led and delivered services that provide access to Elders, and healing and wellness practitioners as part of supports, will continue to be a priority across the homeless-serving system. Morning Fire Protector has a cultural support worker to connect residents with cultural and ceremonial teachings, as well as engaging with Elders. Bent Arrow’s Indigenous Housing First team ensures that cultural supports are available to the participants they serve, and they coordinate and provide access to supports for other teams in the community.”
These are very needed resources in the indigenous communities, and certainly these resources are critical to the community at large as well, so the plan update calls for increased access to increased support resources in mental health, addiction, trauma and wellness services.
Public Education and Awareness
The Plan update recognizes the need for a social marketing campaign, as a way for people and communities to understand the impacts of poverty and unstable housing on people and families, so that they are better prepared to participate in solutions even on a local level.
The report states: “Edmontonians consider ending homelessness an important priority; many are engaged as volunteers, advocates, and donors. While this has been critical to our success, we know that ongoing public education and awareness about homelessness will help challenge myths and opposition to proposed Plan efforts, particularly in the location of new affordable and permanent supportive housing. We will continue to develop targeted and ongoing public marketing campaigns working with the media, business sector, faith community, volunteers, and Indigenous leaders to enhance public understanding about homelessness and challenge reactive approaches to this complex social issue.”
Staff and steering committee members from CRIHI have been in conversation with the City of Edmonton and other partners about the need for this for some time now, and are eager to assist in this important effort. CRIHI’s efforts at public education via our regional workshops are mentioned in the report.
Areas of possible engagement for faith communities:
1. Connect with local social workers or service providers, and offer to provide a fund to help them intervene before individuals or families are evicted. Have a conversation. Build trust and understanding, and find opportunities together.
2. Make room for supportive relationships to grow. Consider hosting mental health, or grief and trauma workshops, or Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous circles. Host parenting or marriage support groups.
3. November is Housing Month. Watch for news and educational efforts on housing by CRIHI and other partners. Read. Share. Talk about it. Invite CRIHI to visit your faith community to learn about the need and how we can respond. Website still being updated for 2017: housingmonth.ca
4. Creating more affordable housing will help prevent people and families from falling into crisis. If you or your faith community has access to land, consider working with non-profit developers to build or incorporate affordable housing.
5. If you are a landlord, consider connecting with housing providers. Talk with them about possible ways you could make room for to someone who needs help affording a home.
Access the full plan update report at the following link: