Bisaro, Assembly 17 8 11
MS. BISARO: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In June, the City of Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition launched a report on homelessness, by Mr. Nick Falvo of Carlton University. I will table the report entitled “Homelessness in Yellowknife: An Emerging Social Challenge” later today.
The findings in Mr. Falvo’s report are not surprising. Findings such as: 90 to 95 percent of homeless people are Aboriginal; social and economic factors are major causes of homelessness; those with poor mental health and users or abusers of alcohol and drugs are more likely to be homeless; and that homelessness contributes to high health care costs. These are all well known to government and service providers alike.
The report doesn’t just describe the state of homelessness in Yellowknife, it offers recommendations to improve the situation. Because most of the funding for homelessness programs comes from federal and/or territorial governments, these recommendations are directed to the funders. That would be this government. That would be us.
Recommendation number one: create a homelessness secretariat. The GNWT must accept greater responsibility for the issue of homelessness. There needs to be a dedicated staff position within the GNWT to oversee and manage our response to homelessness.
Number two: develop shelter standards and provide sufficient implementation funding. The conditions in Yellowknife homeless shelters create risks for both the staff and the homeless people who use them. The GNWT must develop standards for emergency homeless shelters similar to the standards that have been developed for family violence shelters.
Recommendation three: create more affordable and supported housing for the homeless. Research shows that providing permanent housing for those with mental health conditions costs far less than housing them in emergency shelters, jails, or hospitals, and that it provides a much better quality of life. The NWT must develop more affordable housing, including more independent living and/or supported living units.
Number four: strike a public health taskforce on substance use and abuse. We in the NWT have high rates of alcohol and drug use, and the rate is highest among our homeless people. To quote the report, “unsafe drug use presents a public health risk.” I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. ---Unanimous consent granted.
MS. BISARO: To counter the public health risk, a task force should be established to conduct a needs assessment, investigate other successful programs across the country, and then develop a comprehensive policy response with the aim of reducing disease and producing positive health outcomes.
These are all recommendations that can and should be acted upon by this government. I will have questions for the Minister responsible for homelessness later on.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. The honourable Member for Kam Lake, Mr. Ramsay.
Read the full report: Homelessness in Yellowknife: An Emerging Social Challenge