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HRM Releases a Major Report on Homelessness
(Tuesday, February 10, 2004) -- "Homelessness in HRM - A Portrait of Streets and Shelters" , a report detailing important findings on the scope and characteristics of the homeless and at-risk population in the municipality, was presented to Regional Council today.
The report, which outlines the findings of a one-day snapshot study of homeless individuals sleeping in public places, in shelters, transitional housing, and relevant police and emergency services was conducted on June 19, 2003 from 9:00 pm to 12:00 midnight. The study, conducted with the help of trained volunteers, community groups and service agencies, builds on similar studies conducted by other Canadian municipalities. It recommends a variety of actions by all sectors of government to address homelessness in the Halifax Region.
Key Recommendations include:
Federal Government: Develop a national housing strategy; Restore stable funding to social housing programs and develop incentives for the construction and maintenance of rental housing;
Provincial Government: Swiftly implement the Federal-Provincial Affordable Housing Agreement; Review Income Assistance rates in HRM; Consider increasing the number of emergency shelter beds for women and youth, and support community efforts to develop a "shelter of last resort".
Municipal Government: - Develop a municipal housing strategy; Continue to support the efforts of non-profit organizations developing affordable housing; Strengthen partnerships with the private sector and other levels of government to facilitate the development of diverse and affordable forms of housing; Continue to act as an information resource to the community; Increase public awareness of housing and homelessness issues; Locally and nationally advocate for greater senior government involvement in housing and homelessness programs.
Kasia Tota, the Research Project Coordinator, said the study represents a collaborative effort between HRM and community stakeholders to conduct the first comprehensive survey of populations in HRM vulnerable to shelter instability, and those who are absolutely homeless.
Ms. Tota said " The study reinforces the critical needs of those without shelter, as well as those struggling to maintain their current housing. Women with children, youth, Aboriginals, members of visible minorities and persons with multiple needs such as addictions and mental illnesses dominate among those experiencing homelessness. Many individuals are repeatedly and chronically homeless - they keep falling through the cracks".
Paul Dunphy, HRM's Director of Planning and Development Services, said "the report emphasizes that cooperation between all levels of government, community stakeholders and the private sector is required to address the income, housing and health needs of the most vulnerable citizens in the community".
"Shelter is a key determinant of health and of quality of life, and as such affordable housing is the foundation of regional and community planning goals," he said. "We urgently need to work with senior levels of government to address the lack of affordable and supportive housing. Family violence is also a key factor leading to homelessness and we need to address this as a community".
Angela Bishop, Community Liaison with Community Action on Homelessness has reviewed the report, and commented that "the Portrait provides insight, a glimpse of the challenges facing many people in HRM and this will enable stakeholders and their partners to advance the right solutions. The municipality has shown leadership in this initiative that will benefit community and our most vulnerable citizens."
Characteristics of populations at risk
Characteristics of the "Absolutely Homeless"
The Portrait Study is one component of a research grant awarded to HRM by the Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) National Homelessness Secretariat Supporting Communities Partnership Initiatives (SCPI) program. The grant was extended until March 2005.
For more information contact....
Barbara Nehiley, Special Projects Advisor Planning & Development Services