Category Archives: Research highlights

Keys to Engaging People Sleeping ‘Rough’

From visit to visit, outreach workers want to build a relationship with people living rough. Through building a relationship you get to know the people and what they require.

A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s Updated Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness lays out a variety of goals and action plans with the aim of ending and preventing homelessness in the City of Edmonton.

The first goal of the Plan is, End Chronic and Episodic Homelessness.  The actions to achieve this goal are listed below:
1. Enhance the focus of crisis response services and facilities on permanent housing outcomes
2. Continue to evolve Housing First Programs for Maximum Impact
3. Develop permanent supportive housing and affordable housing across all neighbourhoods

The targets set to achieve the goal of ending chronic and episodic homelessness involve having all rough sleepers engaged through Coordinated Access and assertive outreach by 2018. The Plan also makes the following target: by 2020, no one staying in a shelter or sleeping rough will experience chronic homelessness (Homeward Trust, 2017). The purpose of this article is to determine how these two targets focusing on rough sleepers can become a reality by speaking with those who engage with this population on a daily basis.

2016 Homeless Count

According to the 2016 Homeless Count coordinated by Homeward Trust, out of the 1,753 individuals counted as experiencing homelessness, a total of 187 were classified as unsheltered. Out of these, 97 people were recorded as living in a makeshift shelter, 12 people in a vehicle, and 11 in another unsheltered location unfit for human habitation (Homeward Trust Edmonton, 2016).

Boyle Street Community Services

Outreach Services

Boyle Street Community Services’ outreach workers actively seek out vulnerable Edmontonians who may not have access to the programs. Outreach workers strive to find people in need, being those living in parks or on the street to help connect them to needed resources and supports. The organization provides basic needs such as food, housing, clothing, and medical support.

The outreach services include downtown outreach that links those living rough with programs. In addition, there is a city-wide outreach team that works with businesses, faith communities, and many others to help homeless individuals find affordable and adequate housing. In addition, the organization has a winter warming bus that runs from November to May. It is stocked with blankets and soup and actively seeks out the homeless in the City of Edmonton to provide crucial support during the winter months (Boyle Street Community Services, n.d.).

In 2016, Executive Director Julian Daly explained how his organization’s street outreach team worked with over 800 individuals sleeping outside in the river valley and city parks. Daly and colleagues have seen an increase of 43% of individuals camping in the river valley. Similarly, the number of people who use Boyle Street as their mailing address because they do not have a fixed address and are likely homeless has increased from 1,600 in 2015 to 2,220 in 2016 (Boyle Street Community Services, 2016).

How to reach rough sleepers in Edmonton.

An interview was conducted on August 23, 2017 with Doug Cooke, the Team Lead for Street Outreach at Boyle Street Community Services

Question 1: What is a rough sleeper?
“A rough sleeper is a homeless individual who sleeps outside, under tarps or tents, or those who make some form of shelter out of whatever materials they can find.”

Question 2: How does Boyle Street Community Services engage with rough sleepers?
“Street outreach workers make sure the people are in good shape, that they are not under medical distress and they are not experiencing any form of crisis at that moment. From visit to visit, outreach workers want to build a relationship with people living rough. Through building a relationship you get to know the people and what they require. After the first introduction, you may get a first name. When you start assisting someone, you can get them into medical appointments or getting them onto income support or introducing them into a housing program. The first goal is building a relationship and building trust.”

Question 3) What needs to be improved upon for the targets related to rough sleepers to be achieved?
“First having more outreach workers doing their job. It is also more about the accessibility of places to put people. There is a great push of getting people out of shelters and the river valley, but a lot of those people often have higher needs that will require some assistance with living, like someone checking in on them regularly to ensure they are keeping their apartments clean. There needs to be more funding for more apartments and programs that offer assistance and support beyond getting them a place to stay, but also ensuring they know how to take care of themselves, some people need this follow up support. Funding for affordable and supportive housing is lacking in addition to programs that help those who are living rough with mental health issues.”

Conclusion

For the targets outlined above to be achieved, there must be more directed funding into affordable and supportive housing models that will assist those previously sleeping rough to maintain their housing and to live independently. Ensuring that the most vulnerable Edmontonians do not experience chronic homelessness involves relationship building and forming connections based on respect, compassion, and patience. Funding for affordable and supportive housing needs to be improved upon to support more assisted living situations for those with more complex needs who require daily support.  ESPC logo

By Heather Curtis, Research Coordinator
Edmonton Social Planning Council


Works Cited:
Boyle Street Community Services. (n.d). Outreach. Retrieved from http://boylestreet.org/we-can-help/adult-services/outreach/

Boyle Street Community Services. (2016). Executive Director Julian Daly Guest Editorial (Edmonton Journal). Retrieved from http://boylestreet.org/executive-director-julian-daly-guest-editorial-edmonton-journal/

Homeward Trust Edmonton. (2016). 2016 Edmonton Point in Time Homeless Count Report. Retrieved from http://homewardtrust.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2016-Edmonton-Homeless-Count-Final-Report.pdf

Homeward Trust Edmonton. (2017). A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s Updated Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Retrieved from http://endhomelessnessyeg.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Edmonton-Full-Booklet-web.pdf

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The Plan to end homelessness: Unpacking the first goal of the new update

We are eight years in on the ten-year plan.  “It’s time to look under the hood and see how we’re doing,” to use the words of Jay Freeman.  Certainly, we have some things to be happy about. The Housing First program has been very successful, and has given over 6,000 people a home, and in many cases some solid supports as well.

But the work is certainly not done, and there are a few areas identified as needing a lot more work.   That work is identified in the new update to the plan.  For the next few months, we at the Interfaith Housing Initiative will be walking through some of the key learnings and goals set so that we can better understand where we as a whole city need to focus more of our energies as our work continues.

UNPACKING THE FIRST GOAL


update goal one


Creating an effective network of helps, supports, services, and housing options is a tricky business.  In the new update to the plan we see an intensive push to give people more permanency in their supports and housing situations.  One area of concern that CRIHI, Welcome Home volunteers, and other partners expressed with the plan thus far was that people would often finish out a period of housing support in the Housing First program and then end up back on the street.  This was really discouraging for both the people losing their housing and those walking with them.  A major reason identified for this loss is a lack of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), and longer term supports.

As you can see in the chart below, the plan recommends strengthening Permanent Intensive Case Management (PICM) resources to provide better support to people long term, and to greatly increase our supply of PSH.


Update chart change in emphasis


One of the biggest shortfalls in the plan so far has been that while the original plan called for 1,000 units of Permanent Supportive Housing, only 200 were actually built.  PSH is fairly expensive to develop and run and requires major Capital investments, as you can see by the costs associated below.  But it is still cheaper than the cost of providing emergency responses to people living on the street, and it provides real and effective help for people with numerous complex barriers!


update chart cost of psh

Concluding Summary: a lack of both Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Permanent Intensive Case Management (PICM) resources is credited with causing shortfalls in the overall response system.  A person may be very successful and making progress, but if their supports are not permanent and come to an end, they often fall back very quickly into the same place of crisis.  So CRIHI applauds efforts to fill these gaps in our housing response.

Three keys to success in meeting these goals, and how faith communities might help: 

ONE: Committed Funding and Consistent political backing.  Stable operational dollars are needed to maintain supports, and Capital funding is needed to create new units of Permanent Supportive Housing.  Currently, appeals are being made to all levels of government to pitch in.  But people of faith can ensure our leaders know that finding meaningful helps and solutions to homelessness is important to us.  When you run into your City Councillor, MLA or MP, broach the topic of poverty and affordable housing.  Can Faith Communities and other community partners play a significant role in this fundraising?  CRIHI’s Advocacy committee is talking about how we might help collaborate for that opportunity.  Curious to explore that with us?  Drop Mike an email at mike@interfaithhousing.ca

TWO: Finding available land in communities all over Edmonton.  This is complicated work.  There are many factors to consider when finding land, including access to local community resources and transportation, and if that land is expensive, creating housing that will be affordable is more difficult.  Faith communities sometimes have parcels of land, and have offered that as a contribution to the development of affordable housing. Westmount Presbyterian Church provides an excellent example of this.  Read full story here:
https://interfaithhousinginitiative.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/the-westmount-presbyterian-story/

THREE: Gaining support and a welcome from the local community.  This too is complex work.  A key to success is a healthy consultation process.   This is a need identified both by CRIHI and End Poverty Edmonton, and our two organizations are beginning work together on some great resources to aid both the community and developers in sitting down together. The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues also sees the need for this, and is willing to share their wisdom and experience, and hopefully some of their volunteers to aid in this task.


Plan Update Reflection by Mike Van Boom, CRIHI Housing Ambassador

Artwork for the plan update (top) was painted by Chipewyan artist Michael Fatt, and features the Cree word for home, ‘wikiwin.’

Indigenous Poverty in Alberta

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) (2016), Alberta has among the lowest rates of off-reserve Indigenous child poverty in Canada at 26%. In comparison, Manitoba’s rate is 39% and Saskatchewan’s is 36%. The child poverty rate for those with First Nations status off-reserve in Alberta is approximately 39%, while for Metis children the rate is much lower at 20%. For Indigenous children on reserve in Alberta, the poverty rate skyrockets to 60%. According to the National Household Survey (2011), the poverty rate for Indigenous children in the City of Edmonton is 30%, while for non-Indigenous children the rate is approximately 12% (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2016).

Canada’s painful history with residential schools, in addition to the chronic underfunding of Indigenous services both on and off-reserve, has left many First Nations communities living in abject poverty (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2016). Indigenous peoples can also experience higher rates of diabetes, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, heart disease and obesity (Ubelacker, 2013).

The experience of being forcibly removed from their cultures, traditions and customs during the residential school period can partly explain the present health challenges experienced by many Indigenous peoples (Howard, 2017). In addition, as a result of the physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse experienced by many Indigenous peoples in residential schools, there is a general mistrust of mainstream institutions within Indigenous communities, which can exacerbate existing health struggles by discouraging access to health services (FCSS, 2015).

In addition, Indigenous peoples in Edmonton can experience significant challenges when accessing affordable, adequate and safe housing. In the 2016 Point-in-Time Homeless Count in Edmonton, 1,752 people experiencing homelessness were counted. While Indigenous peoples only account for 5% of the Edmonton population, 48% of the homeless population counted identify as Indigenous. Of those individuals, First Nations peoples are represented most significantly with 316 people counted (7 Cities on Housing and Homelessness, 2016)

Indigenous peoples are also overrepresented as food bank users in Alberta. In the 2016 Hunger Count, 33.5% of food bank users identified as Indigenous (Food Banks Canada, 2016).

Indigenous peoples also experience significant challenges obtaining employment in Alberta. In 2016, for example, Indigenous peoples had an unemployment rate of 13.8%, compared to 7.9% within the non-Indigenous population. Indigenous peoples also experience lower labour force participation rates than their non-Indigenous counterparts. In 2016, for example, Indigenous peoples had a participation rate of 70.3%, while non-Indigenous Albertans had a rate of 72.6% (Statistics Canada, 2017).



In conclusion, Indigenous peoples in the City of Edmonton and Alberta experience high rates of child poverty and negative health outcomes resulting from the chronic underfunding of services and the harmful legacy of residential schools (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2016). First Nations peoples in Edmonton are also overrepresented within the homeless population and food bank users and experience significant employment barriers (7 Cities on Housing and Homelessness, 2016).

ESPC logo
By Heather Curtis, Research Coordinator

Edmonton Social Planning Council


Works Cited
7 Cities on Housing and Homelessness. (2016). Alberta Point-in-Time Homeless Count- Edmonton. Retrieved from   http://homewardtrust.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Homeless-Count-2016-Edmonton-Preliminary-Report.pdf
Family and Community Support Services Calgary (FCSS). (2015). Social Inclusion of Vulnerable Seniors – A review of the literature on best and promising practices working with seniors.
Food Banks Canada. (2016). Hunger Count 2016 – A Comprehensive Report on Hunger and Food Bank Use in Canada, and Recommendations for Change. Retrieved from https://www.foodbankscanada.ca/getmedia/6173994f-8a25-40d9-acdf-660a28e40f37/HungerCount_2016_final_singlepage.pdf
Statistics Canada. (2017). Labour force survey estimates (LFS), by Aboriginal group, sex and age group, Canada, selected provinces and regions, annual. CANSIM Table 282-022
Howard, H. (2014). Canadian Residential Schools and Urban Indigenous Knowledge Production about Diabetes. Medical Anthropology, 33(6), 529-545.
Ubelacker, S. (2013, November 28). Aboriginal seniors face more health challenges, report suggests. CTV News. Retrieved from http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/aboriginal-seniors-face-more-health-challenges-report-suggests-1.1564234