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 May, 2006
Counting the Homeless
Counting the Homeless
After years of debate, the City of Toronto conducted its first-ever “homeless count” on April 19. More than 1,900 volunteers undertook the one-night, $90,000 survey in an attempt to find out how many people are living on the streets in Canada’s largest urban centre, and what kind of services they need. www.toronto.ca Many housing activists, however, felt the census was unnecessary and destined to fail for many reasons. But this wasn’t the first attempt in Canada to count the homeless. Similar surveys have been conducted in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, which all found the number of homeless was much higher than expected.
The City of Calgary has conducted a census of homeless persons every two years since 1992. The last count in 2004 found that on any given night more than 2,000 people were living on the street or accessing shelters and/or services. Each year, the level of detail of the information collected about homeless persons has increased. Now the data includes age, gender, race, families, and child welfare status of youth staying in shelters. Institutional data is also collected on the bed capacity of the facilities surveyed.
Advocates in Calgary have said that the counts tend to underestimate the actual number of homeless persons in the downtown core. The counts, however, do serve two very useful functions, advocates agree. They provide a more current snapshot of the city’s homeless population, its size and characteristics and examine how this population changes over time. www.calgaryhomeless.com/bs_product.html?GID=166
In 2005, the homeless count in the City of Vancouver found a significant growth in the number of homeless counted region-wide, almost doubling to 2,174 from 1,121 persons in 2002. The report, which was co-ordinated by the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C., found 47 per cent of homeless people on the street had been homeless for a year or more. Seventy-four per cent of those counted had one or more health conditions such as an addiction, mental illness or a physical disability. The count also identified that Aboriginal people were over-represented among the region’s homeless. www.city.vancouver.bc.ca/commsvcs/housing/pdf/homelesscount05/pdf
Over the years, the homeless count of the Research Committee of the Edmonton Joint Planning Committee on Housing Research identified gaps in the system of supports for homeless persons, homelessness risk factors, and homelessness prevention and intervention strategies, policies and programs. The committee, however, is currently reviewing the methodology that has been used in Edmonton’s previous homeless counts. While the current approach can provide a year-to-year trend, the committee is exploring ways to improve the overall accuracy of the actual count in preparation for the 2006 homeless count. http://www.moresafehomes.net/initiatives_main.htm
Toronto opponents say the homeless count is unnecessary because the needs of the homeless are obvious and that any attempt to count street people will fail due to “insurmountable methodological flaws.” They are also concerned that the count will not include the concealed homeless, at-risk of homelessness and inadequately housed—all significant populations.
“The rationale for research on determining the extent of a particular problem is to provide the public and policy makers some knowledge so as to define the appropriate magnitude of the intervention,” said David Hulchanski in a submission to Toronto councillors. “In the case of homelessness, we already know enough about the magnitude of the problem. It is huge compared to the current magnitude of federal and provincial efforts to address the problem.” Hulchanski is the co-author of a 1995 study for the federal government, “Estimating Homelessness: Towards a Methodology for Counting the Homeless in Canada” www.cmhc.ca
Toronto officials say the survey is needed to understand the depth of the problem of homelessness. The city says it has representatives from 34 community agencies and various municipal divisions involved through the Street Outreach Steering Committee. Findings from the survey will be sent to the Community Services Committee and then on to full council by July.
The Street Culture Kidz Project Inc.
Housing Again, in partnership with Raising the Roof, is presenting a series of profiles of youth-serving agencies as a part of its Youthworks initiative. The profile that follows is the third in a series of articles profiling agencies that are doing important work to help homeless and at-risk youth.As part of its National Initiative Program, Eva’s Initiatives launched its first Innovation Awards to recognize the incredible work being done by organizations across Canada in assisting homeless youth. The Street Culture Kidz Project Inc. in the City of Regina, which has been an active resource for the past eight years, was one of the nominated agencies. The North Central Street Culture Program was the precursor to the Street Culture Kidz Project Inc., which began as a summer activity program in 1997 hosted by the city in an inner city area. In September of 1998, the Street Culture Kidz Project Inc. formally registered as a non profit corporation and charity. Over the years, the Project expanded to offer effective community development programs, guided by participants, for children, youth and young adults. Staff and volunteers work to meet their identified goals and perceived barriers, while offering personal support and employment skills development.Response to programming choices is the basis of its process. By remaining focused on the identified needs, goals and interests of those served, staff can be given direction for all programming content. Although resources are limited, its “ability to resource” is unlimited. This philosophy supports the basis of personal support programming—if a person wants something badly enough and is willing to go to any length to achieve it, they will be successful.Its team approach to program development has evolved through a touring component—members are often invited to present the Project’s success as a human services and community and economic development agency, often traveling considerable distances to other provinces. Preparation for touring and the tour itself creates incredible opportunities to develop and strengthen the individual participants and its collective abilities as a team. Contact: Kim Sutherland, Front-Line Worker and Executive DirectorStreet Culture Kidz Project IncPhone: (306) 565.6206
Recognizing Programs that Support Homeless or At-risk Youth
As part of its Youthworks initiative, Raising the Roof is encouraging Housing Again readers to forward information regarding important initiatives and programs that support homeless or at-risk youth. The programs would be highlighted in upcoming bulletins and/or on the Shared Learnings website. Please send information to
Raising the Roof is pleased to welcome RBC Foundation as a major partner in its Shared Learnings on Homelessness initiative. RBC joins founding partner Direct Energy in making possible this important Web-based resource for networking and information sharing within the homelessness/housing sector. RBC Financial Group has been a major supporter of Raising the Roof since 1998, playing a critical role in the success of its national Toque Tuesday fundraising campaign, as well as in the overall growth and development of the organization.
Women Ask U.N. to Declare Homelessness a Violation of Human Rights
A group of women who are homeless and under-housed are going all the way to Geneva, Switzerland to ask the United Nations to declare homelessness in Canada a violation of human rights. A member of FORWARD, a group based at a Toronto drop-in centre for women who are homeless, will address the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN CESCR) on May 1.
“We won’t be silenced,” said Doreen Silversmith, who will represent FORWARD at the UN. “We are speaking out about homelessness and poverty. Canada’s international reputation is one of wealth, equality and respect for human rights. We wish this were the case. It is time to expose Canada for the marginalization and degradation of poor women that happens here every day,” commented Silversmith.
To view copies of FORWARD’s report to UN CESCR visit: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/docs/info-ngos/forward.pdf