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Report outlines barriers, recommendations to ending homelessness in Island city

Full-scale transformation required, report says
A new report presented to Victoria council July 22 outlines barriers and recommendations to ending homelessness in Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)

A new report presented to Victoria council Thursday details the barriers and recommendations to ending homelessness in Greater Victoria.

Commissioned by the city in February and compiled by Nicole Chaland, the 102-page report draws on interviews from people experiencing homelessness and those working with them, past reports and research, and examples of housing-first approaches being successfully used in other Canadian cities.

The four main barriers to ending homelessness, Chaland wrote, are the affordable housing crisis, the need to transition to person-centred care, housing instability leading back to homelessness, and the need for service integration.

In the region, 10,480 renters with an income of less than $23,536 are spending half their income on rent, according to 2016 census data. Financial institutions recommend people spend no more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, but in an area like Victoria where the average one-bedroom costs upward of $1,500 a month this can be near impossible.

(The beginning of the end of homelessness, Nicole Chaland)

Those unable to secure housing are forced to reckon with a siloed and flawed unhoused support system where a lack of appropriate resources and person-centred care often leaves people in an endless cycle, Chaland explained. A person-centred approach would work with individuals one-on-one to build on their strengths and address their specific needs, rather them lumping them together under the umbrella of “homeless.”

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A social service agency in Hamilton, Ont. tripled the number of people it was housing over a three-year period after staff began working with shelter users to develop their own housing plans, Chaland said. The number of people returning to homelessness was also cut in half.

This approach would be aided by a centralized database of real-time, person-specific data, Chaland said. No organization is currently tracking homelessness in Greater Victoria with such a database, making addressing needs and knowing whether progress has been made extremely difficult. An Edmonton database tracks the number of people experiencing homelessness and who have been housed day-to-day and over time.

(Homeward Trust Edmonton)

Chaland’s report also made 28 recommendations divided into four calls to action, all of which were endorsed at the July 22 council meeting. To end homelessness, Chaland said, the region and province must realize the human right to housing, transform the homeless-serving system, improve standards and accountability mechanisms, and engage people experiencing homelessness as equal partners.

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This final call was a main takeaway from Chaland’s interviews with seven people experiencing homelessness – they all expressed a strong unmet desire to take an active role in their recovery from homelessness. The interviews also revealed the diversity of people and challenges that exist within homelessness.

Of the seven people, they ranged in age from 37 to 64 and had experienced homelessness for between six months and 20 years. Two were Indigenous and two had been through foster care.

“People are framed as problematic and challenging, and the reality is that people are carrying a lot of trauma, pain and anger,” one shelter worker told Chaland.

By the end of 2022, 280 new supportive housing units are planned to be complete in Greater Victoria. Taking this into account, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness estimates there will be 691 people still without a home in the region in 2023.

The full report can be found in the July 22 City of Victoria agenda.

READ ALSO: More supportive housing on the horizon for Victoria

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