GUELPH (February 29, 2016) – The Guelph-Wellington 20,000 Homes Leadership Committee has set an initial local target as part of a nationwide campaign to permanently house 20,000 homeless people by July 1, 2018. The local campaign will kick-off during ‘Registry Week’ in late April, which will mobilize volunteers from the community to get to know homeless people by name and address their housing and health care needs through a simple survey. Completed surveys and recorded data will be shared with local staff who will prioritize entry into housing based on urgent need. The Leadership Committee has committed to housing 30 of our most vulnerable homeless community members in the first six months following Registry Week, as a first step toward ending homelessness in Guelph-Wellington.
The Leadership Committee, made up of decision-makers, community champions, and those with expertise in homelessness, set the initial target based on an understanding of homelessness in the community. A 2015 Point-in-Time Count aimed at measuring homelessness locally found that approximately 360 individuals in Guelph Wellington were experiencing homelessness on a single night during the month of April. Those experiencing absolute homelessness often struggle with deep poverty, trauma, mental illness and addiction along with complex medical problems. Research shows conclusively that people experiencing homelessness have higher mortality rates and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians.
“Our community really needs to work together if we’re serious about ending homelessness for those who traditionally have been very difficult to house or have had difficulty maintaining their housing,” said Gail Hoekstra, Director of the Welcome In, Drop In Centre, Co-chair of the Poverty Task Force, and member of the Leadership Committee. “Setting an initial local target is a good first step, but we have our work cut out for us.”
In addition to understanding the extent of homelessness in the community, the initial local target set by the Leadership Committee was informed by an awareness of challenges that exist within the local rental market. With an average wait list of 2 years for social housing, the lowest vacancy rate in Ontario at 1.2%, and increasing average rents, finding and maintaining a safe, appropriate, and affordable home can be very difficult.
“The commitment from the Leadership Committee to addressing the barriers that individuals face when trying to move from an emergency shelter to a home has been incredible,” said Randalin Ellery, Coordinator of the Poverty Task Force and Co-chair of the Leadership Committee. “But we can’t end homelessness alone. We need senior levels of government to protect and renew existing social housing assets, build new affordable and social housing, and support community innovation.”
The initial target of housing 30 homeless people is focused on on the ‘most vulnerable,’ referring specifically to homeless individuals who are assessed as having high acuity (those with complex needs and at risk of death from homelessness) and/or those who are chronically or episodically homeless. The Leadership Committee is taking a Housing First approach, which centers on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing providing supports and services as needed. After the first six months following Registry Week, another target will be set to continue toward the ultimate goal of ending homelessness.