This past spring, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) released their final report on the Homelessness Partnering Strategy. This national program was created to reduce and prevent homelessness in Canada. The document has important findings and suggestions that will have an impact on accessing funding for community projects and services across Canada. These findings include viewing the Housing First main guidelines as useful for building strong programs!
Why is this important?
The funding cycle for this program is ending and the project is likely to continue. Now is the time to include some important changes to the program design that are up for debate.
2 Major Recommended Policy Changes:
- Increasing Flexibility for program requirements: At the moment, programs can only offer services to clients who fit into the definition of ‘regularly facing’ or long-term homelessness. The new suggestion is to loosen some of these conditions to support more people with different circumstances.
- Include a variety of people in Community Advisory Boards: The program requires that community programs stick to the advice and direction given by Community Advisory Boards before providing services.
- The idea is to include people with different views like those who have experienced homelessness, Police services, and the business community;
- It suggests that having an advisory board that better reflects the community at large will lead to more useful programs at the local level.
Federal Agencies Taking Note!
This program can be seen as a successful example of multiple levels of government working together to address homelessness locally. Also, the recognition that the core ideas of Housing First are effective tools in addressing this issue at the national level is a big win! For organizations such as the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, A Way Home Canada, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) and Raising the Roof, including Housing First in policy is an important step in prevention.
What have they learned about Housing First?
- Prevention: The ESDC has recognized that youth, seniors, victims of domestic violence and indigenous peoples currently do not fit the definition of affected groups. However, they are strong candidates for prevention programs to reduce the likelihood of entering homelessness.
- Coordination of Program Services: The ESDC identified multiple connections between service-providers and outreach programs. Funding is best used when programs are working together to meet the needs of clients. Examples of successful programs in Edmonton and Hamilton make use of coordinated data systems and knowledge of active programs offered in a given area, to get the most out of funding.
What We Need
The ESDC points out that more coordination between all three levels of government is needed which is a good first step. The support for the Housing First approach is also an important win for the organizations working toward the prevention and reduction of homelessness across Canada.
The next step for the ESDC and other government agencies is to consider a systems approach to understanding the issue of homelessness. The concept that institutional support must be available to clients, and not act as barriers to support, is important in continuing the prevention effort.
As part of the National Housing Strategy, the Homelessness Partnership Program has already been extended for 10 years, and by 2022 will see its budget nearly doubled. The successful use of Housing First concepts will lead to continued acceptance of these ideas into community programs across Canada. That means prevention is rising to the top as a major goal for reduction efforts. And that is a good thing.
If you want to learn more, read the full report here.
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