With the 2019 election season in high gear, we reflect on the current federal government’s policies that have begun to move the dial on preventing homelessness.
Earlier this year, the Government of Canada released a new federal homelessness strategy called Reaching Home. Reaching Home has several priorities, including reducing chronic homelessness by 50% by 2027-2028, reducing the inflow into homelessness in communities, and reducing the number of people returning to homelessness. While the dollar amount of their investment is not as significant as that of provinces and municipalities, their role is important in that it paves the way for communities to prioritize homelessness prevention for vulnerable populations.
The Government also released the preliminary results from the second nationally coordinated Point-in-Time (PiT) count across 61 Canadian communities in Everyone Counts 2018. Shockingly, 49% of those surveyed identified their first experience of homelessness was before the age of 25, with 30% of those experiencing homelessness for the first time as a child or teen (under 18). These findings make clear that we must continue to invest in efforts and solutions that work to prevent youth homelessness.
In April, the Government’s Research Tri‑Council (Networks of Centres for Excellence) invested an initial $17.9 million in our Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab, co-led by A Way Home Canada (AWHC), in order to allow us to conduct and mobilize research specific to youth homelessness prevention and sustained exits that build on the work of our Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab, also co-led by AWHC. While the work is just getting off the ground, its end goal is to achieve the best possible outcomes for young people and their families.
Why has the current Government not prioritized prevention until more recently? While there are many reasons for this, one possible answer is that there has been no shared language about what prevention is, and is NOT, and why that distinction matters. With the release of our A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention in 2017 and the subsequent Roadmap for the Prevention of Youth Homelessness in 2018, we not only provided a definition, typology and an evidence base, we also kick started the conversation on what prevention looks like and what it will take to shift to preventing, rather than managing, homelessness in Canada.
So, how do we get politicians to see the value in and commit to making policy decisions that prevent homelessness? Callum Haney, COH’s Communications Projects Officer, has worked on elections campaigns in a variety of roles and shares some conversation starters, resources and tools to help you engage constituents in these important discussions:
Here are a few questions you can use to engage your local candidates in the topic of homelessness prevention:
- Does your party promise to keep the 10-year $2.2 billion homelessness funding commitment under the National Housing Strategy? If not, do you have alternative proposals and where may I find them?
- The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls National Inquiry found that many Indigenous women run shelters and transition homes need funding to meet demand. Does your party’s housing platform prioritize long-term investments in initiatives led by Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender diverse peoples? Indigenous-made solutions to poverty involve looking beyond colonial and settler-based systems. These systems contributed to intergenerational trauma as outlined in the definition of Indigenous homelessness.
- Would your party fund eviction prevention initiatives like the City of Toronto’s Eviction Prevention In the Community (EPIC) pilot program as part of a homelessness prevention strategy?
- Would your party commit to creating and implementing a national youth homelessness strategy, a key recommendation of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home Canada’s Without A Home: National Youth Homelessness Survey?
- Would your party consider convening an Inter-Ministerial planning and coordination table on youth homelessness with provincial counterparts responsible for youth services? This is a key recommendation of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home Canada’s Without A Home: National Youth Homelessness Survey.
- Would your party support a funding agreement with provinces and territories to better support youth leaving foster care as part of a youth homelessness prevention strategy?
- How would your party work to improve affordable housing funding/cost-sharing agreements with municipal, provincial and territorial partners from differing political backgrounds? Housing stability is a key component of a homelessness prevention strategy.
Do you have any tips for engaging local constituents in a discussion on homelessness prevention? Share them with us on Twitter @homelesshub. Make sure to tag your tweets with the election hashtags #CanadaVotes #Election2019 #elxn43 to join in the larger conversation.