Given the amount of information we have put out in this blog series, we felt it would be best to provide a type of executive summary for Part 5. If you’re interested in the full context of the on-going conversation we’ve been having, please read Parts 1-4 of this series as they provide far greater detail and support for our thoughts on how to address homelessness in our community.
We identify a few core values that are of absolute necessity when entering into conversation about homelessness, and the experiences of homelessness in our communities. First – the values our organization is founded on, respect and dignity, are non-starters. We cannot expect to realistically address social problems in our community when we do not value the members of our community facing these challenges. There’s a great campaign on-going with Raise the Roof Canada that portrays this with some great videos. Check it out by connecting with #humansforhumans on facebook or social media. We must move as a community to solutions that are collective and inclusive of those with lived experience. Hearing and respecting the powerful stories and voices of individuals and families experiencing homelessness is the first step to learning how to address homelessness. Community ills require community cures. Our work is rooted in these principles and we extend an open invitation to anyone who wants to join us in this important work.
Ending homelessness in our community is an achievable goal. Many communities across our country have implemented plans to end homelessness, and it is time for one here. Community investment in solving the problem of homelessness has several positive effects. First, each member of our community has a place to call home and the social supports to help them journey through life’s experiences. Each of us leverages resources in times of crisis and often those experiencing homelessness in our community simply do not have social supports to help them avoid homelessness. Second, there is simply no economic argument that validates doing nothing. We spend 2-3x as much money in our current systems that don’t respect and uphold human dignity vs. models such as Housing First and harm reduction services that are twice as successful at helping people maintain housing. Our current methods of dealing with homelessness only perpetuate chronic cycles. Partnership at all levels of our community (citizens, levels of government, CBOs, government services) means that we can provide a more focused, organized response to homelessness and follow the lead of places such as Medicine Hat, where they are on their way to ending homelessness.
Harm reduction services are an additional key piece to Housing First and efficable responses to homelessness. Programs like Needle Exchange Programs and other services along the continuum of harm reduction services are proven to reduce the spread of infectious diseases and have greater success in supporting individuals with addictions and mental illness. When offered congruently, these services provide space for those experiencing homelessness to have far better outcomes.
– Average shelter visits have been shown to decrease 88%
– Days in prison are reduced by 45%
– Visits for acute hospital care are reduced 70%
– Substance abuse reduced 30% (after three months of support)
– 82% of people report a more positive outlook for the future (90% report life has improved)
Service provision needs to meet people where they are at in order to be effective. Individuals are personally empowered and desire better outcomes. The statistical proof above is consistent across Housing First type programs in North America.
Ending homelessness is achievable, but only as we change the conversation. As we have stated in this series, community is more than geographical boundaries. It is the individuals, experiences, and personalities that make up those in our community. We can continue to spend money maintaining existing systems that do not help individuals long-term, or we can stand for and invest in programs and services that are shown to end homelessness. Each person in our community deserves to be respected in their humanity and access services that uphold their dignity instead of stigmatizing their experiences. Negative outcomes in housing often lead to negative outcomes socially. Positive outcomes in housing enable for individuals to live their lives with vision that is more than temporal and based on survival. Many people we have met could echo these statistics and stories, but their stories are for them to tell.
These blogs are our thoughts and we will close with an invitation into the work of ending homelessness in our community. Volunteer with us or another CBO, stand for policies that are proven economically and positive socially, and let’s overcome long-standing barriers between us in our community.