Help is on the way for those looking to get home.
Two thirds of the funding for the successful Getting to Home project has been secured after the city’s governance and operating committee approved $15,000 for each of the next three years to continue the program.
Run by the Trail Skills Centre and Career Development Services, the purpose of the Getting to Home project is to assist people who are homeless, or at significant risk of homelessness, secure and maintain suitable housing.
With the Trail-based pilot project facing its one-time federal funding drying up at the end of March, Jan Morton, executive director of the Skills Centre, asked the city to consider supporting the project.
She said the city’s financial assistance would ensure at least some level of on-going assistance to those who are homeless.
“In addition to the immediate need to maintain at least some level of staffing after the federal funding ends, we would seek to leverage the city’s contribution with funding from other sources,” she said in a letter to city council.
Although other funding sources are yet to be confirmed, the centre has either begun or will soon begin discussions with other local municipalities, the Columbia Basin Trust, B.C. Housing, the Interior Health Authority, the Law Foundation, private corporations and individual donors.
The Skills Centre will also seek to work with the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society’s attainable housing committee, as well as private landlords to improve the availability of safe, affordable rental housing in Trail.
Through outreach support provided by two half-time housing facilitators and administrative support, the project helps individuals deal with barriers that make it difficult to secure appropriate accommodation.
The housing facilitators also organize (and sometimes advocate for) on-going supports which help vulnerable individuals maintain housing.
These supports vary but may include social, mental health, and financial supports provided by the Ministry of Social Development, Mental Health and Addictions, Community Living B.C. and other agencies that help the individuals deal with chronic issues such as mental health, addictions and relationship abuse, all of which contribute to housing instability.
Morton said the pilot project met with “exceptional” success and exceeded the original placement target of 28 individuals by March 31.
From mid-May to the end of December, 2012, the project has assessed and accepted into the project 60 adults who fit the project’s criteria (close to 90 per cent “residing” in the City of Trail) and assisted 37 adults (plus a total of 10 dependent children) to secure housing.
Of those 37, only three have required “re-housing” since the initial placement.
Connections for more housing were made within the community and an advisory committee was struck, made up of representatives of key agencies working with individuals who are often homeless or vulnerably housed.
Morton said a Homelessness Action Strategic Plan was also forthcoming.
The program’s success is representative of the Housing First movement taking place across the country, said Morton, where providing supportive housing has become a key strategy for communities to address poverty and related health and social issues.
“And it includes revitalization of the neighbourhoods in which the homeless and vulnerably housed spend their time,” she said,
The money spent by the city will also save the community money. Morton pointed to a 2008 report issued by Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction that the average street homeless adult living with mental health or addictions in B.C. costs the public system in excess of $55,000 per year.
However, provision of adequate housing and support is estimated to reduce this cost to $37,000 per year as a result of reduced hospital and prison stays, Morton addd, and reduced incidents involving the police and other first responders.