Ontario sets 10-year deadline to end homelessness

Posted on October 30, 2015 in Inclusion Delivery System

TheStar.com – News/GTA – Province plans to work in coordinated way with municipalities to make and track progress as part of its poverty reduction strategy.
Oct 29 2015.   By: Laurie Monsebraaten, Social justice reporter

Ontario is giving itself 10 years to end chronic homelessness, as recommended by an expert advisory panel < http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2015/01/26/toronto-experts-to-advise-ontario-on-how-to-end-homelessness.html >.

“For far too long we have not challenged ourselves, as we should, to solve this problem. We have accepted it,” Deputy Premier Deb Matthews said Wednesday. “Well, we are no longer going to turn a blind eye.”

The panel, appointed in January as part of Ontario’s second five-year poverty reduction strategy, was established to define homelessness and determine how to measure it; set a target to end it; and help implement “best practices” across the province.

The government is also adopting the panel’s recommendation to focus on four key areas, including youth homelessness, aboriginal homelessness, chronic homelessness and homelessness following transitions from provincial institutions such as jails, hospitals, shelters, group and foster homes.

“Today we are taking a very important step forward. We have a plan, We know what we need to know. We are rolling up our sleeves and we are getting to work,” Matthews said during a news conference at Margaret’s, a downtown Toronto drop-in for homeless and marginally housed women.

Among those gathered for lunch and shelter from the pouring rain Wednesday was Anne-Marie Garrels, a First Nations woman who was homeless for 14 years until a local program helped her find housing almost a year ago.
“It’s about time,” said Garrels, 41, referring to the government’s attention to ending aboriginal homelessness.

In the short term, the province is earmarking $10 million over two years on initiatives to prevent and end homelessness, Mathews said. The money is part of Ontario’s $50-million local poverty reduction fund.

Homelessness Facts
By the numbers
– APPROX. 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness every year, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness estimates
– ABOUT 35,000 People are homeless on any given night
– ESTIMATED – 6,000 Young people use homeless shelters every night across Canada
– ABOUT – 30,000 Youth sleep in shelters every year
– 2.4% Of the general population is made up of aboriginal people, but 16% of the homeless in Toronto are aboriginal
– APPROX. 16,000 People used Toronto’s emergency shelter system in 2014, which has 4,500 beds
– $44.1M – Has been allocated by Ontario to help support affordable housing for aboriginal people
– MORE THAN $9.1M Has been committed to build, repair 126 units of affordable housing, as of Sept. 2015
– ALMOST $600M In federal-provincial funds will be transferred to municipalities to prevent and end homelessness
– MORE THAN 30,000 Homeless families, individuals have found homes through federal-provincial Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative

With the newly elected Liberal government in Ottawa promising to partner with provinces on a national affordable housing strategy, Matthews and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin expect funding in this area to increase.

“Isn’t it nice to have a federal partner at last?” McMeekin said.  Due to the complexity and many faces of homelessness, the problem is best fought at the local level, with the help of non-profit and private-sector partners, he added.

Looking toward the 10-year goal, municipalities will be expected to have local strategies to end homelessness and a common approach to collecting, measuring and tracking data.

“When it comes to complex issues like homelessness, it is very important to have a focus, so we aren’t moving about in a million directions,” said advisory panel member Pedro Barata, of United Way Toronto.  “What’s really encouraging is that we now have three levels of government that are, in general, on the same page in wanting to move forward on this issue,” he said in an interview.

Affordable housing advocate and advisory panel member Michael Shapcott lauded the province for setting a goal and getting started on a plan to meet it.  “But as we all know, nothing significant can happen in housing without more bricks and mortar. And money is absolutely key,” he said.

Under the provincial plan < http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=11038 > homelessness is defined as: “the situation of a person or a family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it.”  Chronic homelessness is defined as someone, often with a disabling condition, who has been homeless for six months or more in the past year.

Fred’s story:
“Familiar Face Fred,” a man who was homeless for 15 years in Deputy Premier Deb Matthews’ London, Ont., riding, and well known to local police, nurses, paramedics and jail staff, illustrates why the province needs to end homelessness.

In the year before Fred was housed, he visited the local hospital emergency department more than 250 times, often by ambulance. That is two out of every three days. He had more than 400 encounters with police — more than one a day.

In the year after a London-area agency worked with Fred to find him a stable home with supports, he visited the hospital emergency department twice. Fred had no encounters with police.

“Even the most hard-hearted people agree that we are way better to provide housing than to pay for all those unnecessary supports,” Matthews said. “What Fred’s story illustrates is that we can do this,” Matthews said. “All of us — not just Fred — are better off when we do. Fred is living proof that we can end homelessness. Where there is a will, we can achieve this goal.”

< http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/10/29/ontario-sets-10-year-deadline-to-end-homelessness.html >

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One Response to “Ontario sets 10-year deadline to end homelessness”

  1. Leah Eplett says:

    The Province of Ontario plans to work with municipalities to make and track progress as part of its poverty reduction strategy, and Ontario is giving itself ten years to end chronic homelessness. This sounds familiar doesn’t it? In 1989, the House of Commons passed a unanimous plan to end childhood poverty by the year 2000. Campaign 2000, came up with action plans to help eradicate poverty and 25 years later no plan has materialized nor has poverty been eliminated. In the campaign’s latest report card titled “Child Poverty 25 years Later: We Can Fix This, reports show that Ontario is failing. The new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is promising to spend $10 million dollars over the next two years to prevent and end homelessness, let’s see if this becomes a reality. Plans and recommendations made in the past have fallen on deaf ears, so here is hoping the Liberals work with municipalities to make real change to affordable housing and child poverty. As a result of past failures, I cannot believe it until I see it.


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