The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for July, 2004
Community Spotlight: Free Moving Service for Low-Income People in Calgary
Elisabeth Mueller gets into the office between 7:30 and 8 a.m to do her paperwork and organize her day. At 9 a.m. she climbs into a cube truck with co-workers Shawn Urquhart and Chad Graville and the three spend the day helping people move. But this isn’t your average moving company.
A high percentage of their clients are on welfare or disability assistance. Many are women who are fleeing difficult situations or seniors who are being evicted. Others are moving from shelters to subsidized housing.
“Anyone who works with people who are, or who become, homeless knows that they abandon their belongings on a regular basis because they do not have the funds to move them,” says Mueller.
The Moving Assistance Program, which Mueller co-ordinates out of Calgary’s Aspen Family and Community Network Society, aims to stop this cycle. It provides moving support for people with low incomes, and storage for people with no place to put their possessions. This lifts a burden off support agencies that were continually helping people through the crisis of losing not only their housing but also everything they owned.
Initially Mueller did a lot of work to help the 45 agencies that refer people to the program educate their clients on how to prepare for a move. These days the agencies know what to do. So Mueller has more time to be on the road.
She and her co-workers do not do any packing and will not move anything that isn’t packed. The key to the program’s success is having its own vehicle and staff. Similar programs have failed because they didn’t have a dedicated vehicle and they attempted to use drop-in clients, who didn’t have moving expertise, as workers.
Although the demand is high and Mueller says she often has to turn down up to 30 requests at the end of each month, future funding is sketchy. Money from the federal Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative (SCPI) program ran out last October. Aspen was able to get funding from a community initiatives program, then Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) stepped in for another six months.
When that funding runs out, Mueller isn’t sure what will happen. What she does know is that the service is so well-established in the community that agencies “have fits” at any rumour that the program will shut down. “Aspen will move heaven and earth to save this program but it shouldn’t be that way because only eight per cent of our moves are for Aspen. We should be under the umbrella of the community.”
Housing and Better Police Awareness for People with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has only recently been recognized as a major cause of the behavior problems that cause many people to run into trouble with the law and/or become homeless. But now awareness is building and community solutions are emerging.
The Pas Family Resource Centre in Manitoba has developed a program with the RCMP to educate police officers about the syndrome and Whitehorse has pioneered some supportive housing initiatives.
It’s a syndrome with a name that keeps changing. The latest moniker -- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) -- takes into consideration that different people are affected in different ways. For some, the problem shows in their facial features. Others show no physical characteristics but have suffered brain and nervous system damage. Regardless, diagnosis is hard to come by because it takes a team of medical professionals to do it.
There are no figures to tell the story of how many homeless people are affected. But a 1997 study by Dr. Julianne Conry and Dr. Diane Fast revealed that over 23 per cent of the people in a youth correctional facility were affected by FASD or a related disorder. It is estimated that up to 70 per cent of the people who have FASD will become involved with the criminal justice system.
“Because of the nature of the disorder, people with FASD have a great deal of trouble maintaining a residency. They need supportive people to help them screen some of their visitors, to remind them to turn down their music at 11 p.m., keep their apartment clean and live more safely -- basically to avoid things that they would be evicted for in regular housing,” said Elaine Seier, project manager for Options for Independence, a volunteer group located in Whitehorse which aims to provide stable, supportive, independent housing for adults with FASD.
Options for Independence started a project in 1999 that now houses seven people who live in an apartment building. There is 7 hours of on-site supervision and 24-hour, on-call support.
In addition to the Options for Independence project, the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of the Yukon (FASSY) received $300,000 from the federal Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative (SCPI) program to help 15 more adults with FASD find and maintain safe housing.
The new program is called ‘Try Differently’ and project co-ordinator Lilliam Sequeira Duran says she is ideally looking for families to provide living space plus support for the adults. Once families are found and approved, they will be provided with ongoing funding from the Yukon government.
“These people need to be supervised, so housing them in apartment buildings doesn’t work -- unless the apartment building has services such as 24-hour supervision and a community kitchen.”
So far Try Differently has found two families -- one client has been placed and another is in the process of being taken in. Two other men with FASD are living in apartments with the support of outreach workers. One of the men is working at a golf course for the summer and workers are helping the employer understand FASD. So far, Sequeira Duran says, he is doing well.
Funding for this program ends in March 2006. By that time community members will have to be fully trained and working independently, with provincial funding and some volunteer help, to support these 15 people.
Sequiera Duran, who has an adopted a 6-year-old daughter with FASD, says she wants people to understand that it is the community’s responsibility to come together to prevent future generations from being born with these problems.
“We should not blame the mothers because those mothers did not have the supports in place when they were growing up. As a community we have failed those mothers and that is why these people have FASD.”
For a copy of the pamphlet developed for police officers about FASD visit sharedlearnings.org. Click ‘Go’ next to the ‘Learn through Resources’ heading and scroll down to ‘Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A message to Police Officers about FASD’
Coalition for Accessible Identification Releases its Recommendations
Social workers who help homeless people apply for the identification they need to access shelter, food and health care assistance have released their recommendations to help government departments make ID more accessible.
Among the recommendations is the expansion of eligibility requirements. The social workers say that lack of proper ID is being used as a reason to deny people access to services they badly need.
The issue become urgent this past January when Human Resources Development Canada required people to provide a Permanent Resident (PR) card when applying for a Social Insurance Number or replacing a lost or damaged SIN card. The long and expensive process to apply for a PR card makes it a significant barrier for low-income and homeless people.
For a copy of the recommendations e-mail Jane Kali at
New Course in Harm Reduction at York University
Service providers, administrators and policy makers are being targeted for a new course that promises to introduce the basic principles, philosophy and application of harm reduction. The course also aims to provide people with a better understanding of how to implement harm reduction policy and practice within an organization and community.
Harm reduction is a set of approaches and policies aimed at reducing the risks for people who use drugs.
For more information, click here
Our Thanks to Angie Gallop
After three years of writing for this e-bulletin, Angie Gallop is moving on to new challenges. Housing Again extends our heartfelt thanks to Angie for her many contributions to this newsletter and we wish her every success in the future.
Our new writer will be on board for the September issue.