Giiwe: Reducing Indigenous Homelessness

Members of the Poverty Task Force’s Community Voices and Housing Action Group partners participated in a Giiwe Circle with author Jessie Thistle.  Jessie presented his work on the development of a Indigenous Definition of Homelessness with The Homeless Hub. Jessie also shared his personal story, his new book From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way. and joined us in our Giiwe Circle.  Jessie Thistle – who has traveled all across Canada – commented that Giiwe was a unique project and its Circles a unique experience that he had not seen in any other communities across Canada.

Giiwe is an exciting Indigenous led, inter-agency collaboration brought to us by the staff at M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre. The project aims at reducing off-reserve Indigenous homelessness. Giiwe is centred on fostering a coordinated housing-related response to Indigenous specific housing needs and preferences in Grey Bruce.

Giiwe has successfully established and sustained an Indigenous led, inter-agency collaboration with 11 organizations while strengthening relationships and promoting trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners. It has also facilitated a referral process and established inter-agency agreements to better serve Indigenous peoples living off-reserve. A recent Evaluation Report highlights the work being done.

Giiwe Circles incorporate cultural safety training, collaborative case management and relationship building to increase Indigenous leadership with improved collaboration and understanding of Indigenous practices, which ultimately lead to the prevention of Indigenous homelessness.

 

Rural Homeless Enumeration 2018

full length of man sitting outdoors

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In April of 2018, Bruce County and Grey County each conducted a homelessness enumeration using a Period Prevalence Count (PPC) methodology in their respective counties.

The problem of homelessness is most often associated with urban communities, however, a growing body of research over the past 15 years has shown that the problem is also prevalent in rural Canada. The size and the dynamics of the problem in these rural areas is still largely unknown, in part because of unique problems that
rural areas pose for data collection. Rural areas often have fewer services geared towards people experiencing homelessness and the services that are available often serve a large geographical region.

A recent study conducted in rural and northern Ontario found that only 32 percent of service providers in these regions are able to keep ongoing records of their at-risk and homeless populations. This problem is compounded by the fact that rural areas tend to have smaller populations spread out over relatively large geographic regions, making it more difficult to locate those who sleep rough or stay in unsafe dwellings.

The homelessness enumeration was the first of its kind to be conducted in Bruce County and Grey County – the result of a mandate set by the provincial government in 2016 with the passage of the Promoting Affordable Housing Act and the commitment to end chronic homelessness by 2025.

Beginning in 2018, all Ontario municipalities are required to conduct a homeless enumeration every two years with the goals of:

  • Improving community awareness and understanding of homelessness;
  • Helping to monitor and assess developing trends over time;
  • Providing a method through which to measure progress; and
  • Strengthening efforts to end homelessness.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force Housing Action Group identified organizations across the two counties that work with people experiencing homelessness as hub sites where enumerators would be located to conduct surveys. Front line social service workers were provided enumeration training on the survey tool, empathy training and information on services/programs available for people experiencing homelessness.

Results

Bruce County: over the course of the enumeration week, a total of 17 individuals experiencing homelessness were counted in Bruce County. Eleven of them completed questionnaires.  Read more in the full report: 2018 Homeless Enumeration – Bruce County.

Grey County: over the course of the week 33 individuals identified as experiencing homelessness and 29 completed the survey.  Read more in the full report to council.

Next Steps

The results are large enough to demonstrate homelessness exists in Grey County and Bruce County. Although the results presented are not generalizable to both counties’ population, they are sufficient to demonstrate that homelessness is a socioeconomic problem in Bruce County and Grey County.  The results suggests avenues for further study, particularly in regards to youth and seniors’ homelessness.

These results will be used in the consultation sessions for the update to Bruce County’s Long-Term Housing Strategy and Grey County’s 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan.

 

Defining Adequate Housing

apartment architecture balcony building
Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

Housing is a basic need and is internationally recognized as a human right. Housing forms the foundation for our homes, neighbourhoods and communities.

Housing provides shelter, security, a space in which family life can happen and where children grow up and thrive. Yet, for many people, their housing jeopardizes their health and well-being.

The unfit conditions in housing, disproportionately experienced by people living in low income or other marginalizing circumstances negatively affect people’s physical and mental health. Multiple chronic diseases and acute effects, including asthma, respiratory conditions, allergies, chemical sensitivities, as well as cardiovascular disease and its numerous risk factors can be exacerbated or, in some cases caused, by poverty, stress, and living in unhealthy conditions.

Our Community Voices  are featured in a recent series of Rentsafe videos:

Defining Adequate 

My Voice is Power

Stigma in the System

Towards Healthy Homes for All: RentSafe Summary and Recommendations April 2018, summarizes the research over the past 3 years and offers recommendations for action to improve intersectoral action and capacity to ensure healthy housing conditions

 

Housing is a Human Right

Canada has adopted a Rights-Based approach to its first-ever National Housing Strategy on November 22nd, 2017.  They have announced their new strategy with a $41 billion budget over the next 10 years.

In addition to existing programs,  what is new?

$15.9 billion for a National Housing Co-investment Fund 

  • $4.7 billion in financial contributions and
  • $11.2 billion in low interest loans to developers that meet certain criteria including ensuring that:
    • 30 per cent of units in a development will rent for less than 80 per cent of median market rents for at least 20 years.
    • At least a 25 per cent reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over national building and energy codes.
    • 20 per cent of units meet accessibility standards.

$200 million Transfer of Federal Lands to housing providers on condition that they meet environmental, socioeconomic and affordability standards.

A separate Indigenous People Housing Strategy will be developed with their input.

What is the need locally? 

  • 60% of people on low-income are working
  • 20% of employees in Grey County have multiple jobs
  •  95% of all new jobs created in Ontario were part-time
  • 1 in 3 jobs in Ontario is temporary, contract, or part-time.
  • 1 in 5 children live in poverty in Ontario
  •  17% of Grey County and Bruce County children under age 17 live in poverty.
  • 21 food banks exist in Grey County and Bruce County. 16% of the population of Bruce and Grey Counties have accessed a food bank.
  • In Ontario, the average food bank client spends 70% of income on rent.
  • Waitlist for Affordable Housing in Grey County has increased by 15% in the last year. 730 families are on the wait list.

How far the budget reaches down to support our Municipal budgets for affordable housing is still to be determined.  But the Federal leadership sets the direction for budge allocations going forward!

Measuring Homelessness in Grey County and Bruce County  

Our Housing Action Group will be monitoring and reporting on developments.   Currently, our Housing Action Group are developing the program design and implementation for Ontario’s Homelessness Enumeration on April 23rd to 27th, 2018.  This will be a Point-in-Time  Rural Survey carried out in partnership with community agencies and volunteers.

The report of Ontario’s Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness (the Panel), A Place to Call Home, stated: “Over the past several decades, homelessness in Canada has been on the rise” (2015, p.7). The experience of homelessness is understood to be a severe form of deprivation for people affected by a wide range of factors over which they have no control, such as unemployment or precarious employment, challenges with finding affordable housing, and economic hardship. Further, homelessness has
unequal impacts that are linked with racialization, gender, sexual
orientation, age, ability, language, immigration status, socioeconomic
status, mental health and addictions issues, regional location, and
Indigenous identity. Learning more about the prevalence and realities of
homelessness can galvanize community stakeholders who want to
develop more effective ways of addressing it.

Read more about Grey County’s Trends and Analysis as part of its County of Grey Housing  and Homelessness Plan (2014-2024) and Bruce County’s Long-Term Housing Housing Strategy (2013-2023).