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
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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.’