Coalition to End Homelessness makes gains on ambitious goal

More than 500 housed in Greater Victoria in last year

Another year, another 535 people housed – bringing the region significantly closer to its goal of ending homelessness by 2018.

The number is down from last year, when members of the Coalition to End Homelessness worked together to house 635 people. But the tally doesn’t tell the whole story.

Housing retention is also an important part of the picture.

“We will continue to strengthen our efforts to ensure that people retain their housing for much longer periods,” said Debbie Thompson, executive director of the Coalition to End Homelessness.

“Our intention is to continue to monitor that … because it’s about ensuring people have the supports to remain housed.”

There’s already been progress.

At first, one third of homeless clients housed were either evicted or lost their housing for a variety of reasons. That proportion has now dropped to one quarter.

“We know that at least 75 per cent of the people housed remained past six months,” said Thompson. “It’s incremental but it’s steady.”

The coalition held its annual general meeting Tuesday, marking the two-year anniversary since members agreed on a 10-year deadline to house the estimated 1,500 homeless on the street. Since then, hundreds of new subsidized housing units have opened up, yet the number of people seeking emergency shelter has also risen.

The coalition’s Streets to Homes program, which ramped up in May 2010 after a long delay, has guided 41 people into rental apartments by March 31.

The pilot project aims to house 120 people in private market units.

To help find more suitable units and landlords willing to participate, the coalition partnered with the Rental Owners and Managers Society of B.C.

So far, six to 10 landlords have been identified through the partnership.

They have pledged to dedicate 15 units by summer for people coming from supportive housing, rather than people currently living on the street.

“That’s going extremely well,” Thompson said, adding that so far, she’s received positive feedback from participating landlords.

Unlike most tenants, who could deface the property or fail to pay rent, Streets-to-Home clients come with direct rent payments, a support worker and an appointed landlord liaison, she said.

With seven years left to achieve an end to homelessness, Thompson emphasized the need for funding partners.

“We need all levels of government,” she said. While she acknowledged the provincial government’s contribution to maintain current supportive and affordable housing, she emphasized, “we need more new stock.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

 

By the numbers:

One year snapshot, ending March 31, 2011:

• 177 additional rent supplements to house people in existing market rental units

• 258 units of newly built subsidized housing opened for the homeless, for seniors, or people with disabilities.

• 535 people housed who were previously homeless

• 1,958 unique individuals used one of five emergency shelters, up 7.4 per cent over two years.