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 February, 2006
Partners Solving Youth Homelessness
When eleven year old Trayon came to Canada from Guyana in 1997, his reunion with his parents wasn’t the fairy tale he’d hoped it would be. Within a few years, Trayon was on the street and headed for trouble. Eventually he heard about a program that would give him a free place to live for one year and he jumped at the chance to have a roof over his head and food in his belly. Within a few weeks of entering the program at Eva’s Phoenix, however, he found so much more than just shelter and food—he found respect, he said.
Youth homelessness has reached alarming proportions—it is estimated that young people represent up to one third of Canada’s homeless population. On any given night, approximately 33,000 Canadians are homeless—8,000 to 11,000 are youth. In Toronto, roughly 10,000 different youth are homeless at one point in any given year—and between 1,500 and 2,000 are homeless on any given night. Long-term solutions, however, require unique, cutting edge partnerships between the private, public and community sectors.
This is the underlying philosophy behind the Youthworks initiative: the best way to deal with homelessness is to address it at the beginning, not treat it at the end.
“When I came to the shelter, I had to agree to participate in a variety of programs which I did begrudgingly at first,” Trayon told Housing Again. “But I soon found that the training programs were making me feel important and useful. And I was learning new skills, how to hold down a steady job and take care of myself.”
“For the first time since coming to Canada, I really feel like I have a bright future ahead of me,” Trayon said.
On January 11, Eva’s Phoenix in Toronto was the site of a launch of a $1.2-million Youthworks initiative—a three year national campaign of Raising the Roof to support programs to combat youth homelessness. The goal of the program is to recognize and support cutting-edge programmes that build self-sufficiency, enabling homeless youth to move from the street and hostels to independent living as contributing members of society.
Board President and Partnership Director, Affordable Housing Office, City of Toronto, Sean Goetz-Gadon, was on hand with Toronto Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone to make the announcement.
“This is an opportunity for groups in the community to join together with the private sector to find solutions to homelessness,” said Goetz-Gadon. “We want to tap into the growing sense of responsibility within corporations because every young person deserves an opportunity to shine.”
“This program means that we will cut off the flow of homeless young people moving into long-term, adult homelessness in these communities,” he said. “This is an exciting opportunity because we are working towards a long-term solution to the crisis.”
In addition to supporting groundbreaking work that is currently under-funded, Youthworks will provide a much needed networking and communications structure for community agencies providing services to homeless youth across the country. Raising the Roof will work with its community partners to document key findings and formulate best practices. The goal is not only to improve practices in dealing with youth homelessness, but ultimately to encourage community partners and corporate stakeholders to work together to influence public policy in addressing homelessness among young Canadians.
Raising the Roof has set a goal to raise $1.2-million in the first phase of the initiative, with funding provided to agencies over three years. Direct Energy is the lead sponsor with a three-year commitment of $330,000. Raising the Roof has also secured commitments from the Scotiabank, BMO Financial Group, TD Securities, Franklin Templeton Investments, Molson Canada, and the Jays Care Foundation.
The three agencies selected will each receive $100,000 per year for three years to enhance the programs they are offering to provide innovative education, training and employment programs for more than 500 high risk young people aged 16 to 24. They are Eva’s Phoenix in Toronto, The Back Door in Calgary and Choices for Youth in St. John’s. They have demonstrated success in offering programs that build self-sufficiency and enable homeless youth to move from the street and hostels to independent living as contributing members of society.
Youthworks will monitor the results and effectiveness of these programs to share with other agencies and to better engage the corporate and government sectors in policies and programs that make a difference in the lives of young homeless Canadians.
Eva’s Phoenix in Toronto is a transitional housing and training facility offering innovative education, employment and mentorship programs to help homeless youth aged 16 to 24 achieve sustainable employment and housing.
Prior to formally opening in June 2000, Eva’s Phoenix ran its first successful employment training program funded by Human Resources Development Canada, now known as Service Canada, which supported 50 homeless and at-risk youth in life skills training and on-site employment on the construction site with the help of local unions. Working with business, labour and community partners, Eva’s Phoenix provides homeless and at-risk youth with the opportunities needed to develop life skills, build careers and live independently.
Youth live in shared townhouse-style units with access to common areas. While at Eva's Phoenix, youth develop the skills to live independently through goal-setting exercises, workshops and hands-on programs that are delivered in a supportive environment. Programs offer mentorship with peers which include one-to-one settings in a range of supports from cooking classes to leadership development activities, which in turn supports the efforts of youth to successfully manage independent living.
Program graduate Darnell said that a year ago before arriving at Eva’s he thought he might end up in jail, or worse. “I had no future, no hope,” said Darnell. “I knew there had to be help somewhere and that if I put the effort into getting something out of life, instead of destroying my life, I could change. After my program at Eva’s Phoenix, I found a job and can now support my family.”
A comprehensive evaluation of the program was completed in 2003. A toolkit of resources for groups across Canada is currently under development.
For information: www.evasinitiatives.com/e-phoenix.htm
The Back Door
The Back Door in Calgary is an innovative program for street youth 17 to 24 in which participants work with community volunteers to develop step-by step personal contracts to improve their lives, get off the street and become self-sufficient members of society.
The program began as an experiment in social change to test a cost-effective approach to help long-term street youth (young adults 17-24) move permanently off the street into mainstream society. It was felt that traditional measures were increasingly costly and nurtured dependence rather than independence of those they sought to help.
In the development of the original project proposal in 1987, Back Door members conducted survey research asking frontline workers of existing programs in the major cities of Canada and the U.S.: “What might work better than what you are currently doing?” The results indicated to them that a different approach was needed—one that allowed “self-determination and self-direction, accountability for one’s choices, and ownership for one’s own life.”
The fact that people are living on the street is only part of much larger social questions. Members believe that “if social change is to be achievable, our society must go beyond our traditional ways of thinking.”
In January 1988, “The Back Door, a Youth Employment Society” opened its doors in Calgary, but its purpose was not just about getting young people off the street. It is designed as an environment which seeks to discover, understand and communicate the factors which indicate the need for social change. Since 1988, over 700 participants have gone through the programs which have consistently worked for 7 out of 10 young people.
For more information: www.thebackdoor.ca
Choices for Youth
Choices for Youth is a community agency providing supportive housing and related services for homeless youth in downtown St. John’s. The program includes a shelter for young men (16 to 29) and a supportive housing programme for 45 youth aged 16 to 21.
In 1990, the community-based agency was established after the Mount Cashel Orphanage closed. In November 2004, Choices for Youth Services Centre, a new $1.9 million shelter and community resources agency for young people, officially opened its doors.
Their mission is to provide youth with a range of supportive housing options, access to a variety of services that “promote healthy personal development and a sense of belonging within an environment of respect, tolerance, peace and equality.” The program helps youth find and maintain housing in the community and supports them to address issues in their lives that contribute to a lack of housing—education, employment, addictions, etc.
“We offer youth choices—when there are no other options,” said Executive Director Sheldon Pollett.
Since opening, Choices has provided a supportive housing program for 45 youth each year (ages 16 – 21).
Partnership Trumps Partisanship to End Homelessness
The Executive Director of the Washington-based Interagency Council on Homelessness, which is responsible for providing federal leadership for activities to assist homeless families and individuals, visited Toronto shortly after the Conservative Party won a minority government last month. At a symposium sponsored by Homes First Foundation, Philip Mangano told the audience, including Toronto Mayor David Miller, to take heart—American housing advocates were very worried about the future of services for the homeless when the Bush Administration assumed power in 2000, but what they have seen in the last five years is a deeper commitment to ending homelessness.
“Partnership trumps partisanship to get the job done,” Mangano said.
Canadian housing advocates made significant advances with the last minority government. With focused, determined efforts housing and homelessness can be kept on the national policy agenda, he said. www.homesfirst.on.ca
CHRA Launches On-Line Housing Discussion
Canadian Housing and Renewal Association has launched an on-line Discussion on Housing Program Choices—a web-based discussion on various policy directions, which include the role of rent supplements and capital investment in expanding the social housing stock. A discussion paper is also available which outlines ideas and options for a “program tool box” and bottom up planning. To join the discussion group:
It's Toque Tuesday Time
On February 7 in Toronto, Raising the Roof will hold its 2006 Toque Tuesday Celebration—a national campaign that gives people from all walks of life the chance to raise funds, raise fun and raise awareness in the fight against homelessness in Canada. Buy your special Raising The Roof toque in exchange for a minimum $10 donation to support programs and initiatives which help make a difference in the lives of thousands of men, women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. http://www.raisingtheroof.org/tp-toque-index.cfm