In Quebec, homelessness has become a significant social issue. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the homelessness sector saw a surge in the number of people seeking our services. According to the 2015 and 2018 point-in-time counts, homelessness was already on the rise in Quebec before the onset of the pandemic and most people in the sector believe it has further increased since then. In the face of COVID-19 and a worsening housing crisis, many people who were in precarious situations found themselves without adequate housing for the first time. In Montreal alone, 24,000 households are on the waiting list for subsidized housing. With the lack of affordable housing becoming a pressing issue, we are seeing a rise in encampments as well. Despite the best efforts of community organizations in our sector, who are working tirelessly and collaboratively, we are still seeing a rise in homelessness.
At the Old Brewery Mission, we realized that we had to think beyond the homelessness sector and take a preventative approach to respond to a social issue of this magnitude. In 2021, we developed a partnership with policy and research experts from McGill University’s Department of Equity, Ethics, and Policy to establish the Quebec Homelessness Prevention Policy Collaborative (Q-HPPC). This collaborative is the first of its kind in the province.
Developing a Collaborative Model for Homelessness Prevention in Quebec
The Q-HPPC, led equally by university researchers and community leaders, is made up of distinct working groups that focus on provincial policy intervention for homelessness prevention. To effectively prevent homelessness, we need early interventions and policy solutions that address the upstream factors that contribute to this issue. Until now, this approach has not received sufficient attention or action in policy circles in the province. The Q-HPPC promotes an intersectoral model and works to elevate homelessness prevention as a critical policy concern. This collaborative model conducts and acts upon research across sectors to better understand the intersecting social and policy realities across populations. By working together, we are creating a cohesive vision of prevention that addresses many of the pathways into homelessness.
Building a Community: Our Membership
The Q-HPPC brings together over forty members from academic institutions, community groups and the public sector who collaborate across five key policy streams. Each working group is co-chaired by members from each sector, and focuses on a target population: youth, immigrants & refugees, women experiencing intimate partner violence, people with justice involvement, and people living with certain mental health conditions.
Whereas policy initiatives have often operated in silos, the Q-HPPC brings together important stakeholders who may not otherwise be in conversation to build a stronger evidence base for prevention. Our model also holds researchers and policy-makers accountable to the realities of frontline community work.
By combining the respective strengths and knowledge of members across sectors, our goal is to deliver policy options to provincial decision-makers that will result in significantly fewer people entering or re-entering homelessness.
Our vision is that of a Quebec where everyone has access to a safe, affordable and decent place to call home.
The Q-HPPC focuses on primary prevention policies that target people and groups at risk of homelessness, to help prevent them from becoming unhoused. These actions and policies may operate at the structural level (e.g., increasing the amount and/or accessibility of housing allowances), at the systems level (e.g., creating housing services for people who are leaving correctional institutions), or at the individual level (e.g., identifying and supporting individuals at risk of being evicted).
The Q-HPPC’s First Year
In its first year, the Q-HPPC gained real momentum around homelessness prevention in Quebec. We mobilized members across our five groups and developed the foundations of prevention-focused research and policy proposals.
In February 2022, the Q-HPPC hosted its inaugural conference on homelessness prevention. The virtual event featured a panel of researchers and community leaders from across Canada and abroad, including Canadian Observatory on Homelessness director Stephen Gaetz, Vanderbuilt University professor Maribeth Shinn, and Saija Turunen, research director at the Y-Foundation.
This fall, the Gender research stream, which investigated the intersection of intimate partner violence (IPV) and homelessness, produced their first consultation paper. Co-chaired by Pearl Eliadis, lawyer and Associate Professor at the Max Bell School of Public Policy, and Melpa Kamateros, the Executive Director of Shield of Athena Family Services, the working group applied a human-rights based approach and identified opportunities for law reform in Quebec to advance the right to adequate housing for women and girls experiencing IPV. Notably, their first recommendation is to amend the Quebec Charter of human rights and freedoms to include the right to adequate housing.
What comes next?
After a promising first year, the Q-HPPC’s activities are expanding. We are continuing in our efforts to mobilize new members and are working to develop two new research streams, with a focus on affordable housing and Indigenous-led strategies for homelessness prevention.
The Justice and Corrections research stream is working on a consultation paper identifying factors that contribute to homelessness for people with criminal justice involvement. The objective is to identify opportunities for policy reform to make sure people have the necessary support, and access to services and housing, when they are leaving provincial correctional institutions. The analysis and recommendations put forward in their report will include the expertise of people with lived experience. These recommendations will be released in the new year.
Moreover, the Q-HPPC has developed a partnership with the Mobile Legal Clinic to create a non-partisan draft law that would, if adopted by the legislature, require the Quebec government and targeted public institutions to implement strategies to prevent homelessness. Certain public institutions, including child protection services and correctional facilities, are systems where people are at a higher risk of entering homelessness. The intention of the draft bill is to legislate mechanisms for accountability within these systems to prevent homelessness.
Finally, the Q-HPPC will be hosting its second annual conference on homelessness prevention in Quebec next spring.
The increase in homelessness in Quebec, and across Canada, highlights the need to work across sectors to develop effective preventive strategies. We look forward to talking more about the Q-HPPC and our collaborative model at the 2022 National Conference on Ending Homelessness on November 2nd.
This post is part of our #CAEH22 blog series which highlights research on preventing and ending homelessness that is being presented at the 2022 National Conference on Ending Homelessness, November 2-4 in Toronto, ON. Learn more about this work through James’ presentation in the Thinking Beyond the Homelessness Sector session on Wednesday, November 2nd at 10:00 am.