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  A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are
  doing to put housing back on the public agenda in Ontario,
  across Canada and around the world.

In this issue

   Number 153 • July 2012


to Document
At Home/Chez Soi Project

by Ele Pawelski,
Raising the Roof Volunteer


The National Film Board of Canada has partnered with the
Mental Health Commission of Canada to produce Here at Home, an interactive web documentary that connects faces and stories to MHCC’s At Home/Chez Soi project.  

The background to this partnership is MHCC’s launch, in 2009, of a four-year pilot project to study the concept of a Housing First intervention for individuals struggling with both homelessness and mental health issues.  The At Home/Chez Soi project is being conducted in five Canadian cities: Vancouver; Winnipeg; Toronto; Montreal; and Moncton.  The NFB joined the project in 2011 and created the Here at Home site to document the project.

The number of At Home participants, according to the NFB site, are:

  • 1,265 housed participants
  • 970 unhoused participants with access to existing services
  • 127 service providers
  • 9 peer support workers
  • 102 researchers
  • 265 landlords
  • 15 housing agents
  • 2,753 people “carrying out the largest study of its kind in the world”

The premise of Here at Home is that five local crews, one based in each city, will capture participants’ stories and post the films one by one.  In addition to the films, the NFB hosts an accompanying blog that features, “Interviews, artifacts and conversations about homelessness and mental health in Canada, by the creators of the web documentary Here At Home.”

Here at Home website greets visitors with a colourful, moving constellation with lines that join the five Canadian cities in which At Home is running.  Hovering over one of the cities brings up numerical information about that city’s participants.  The floating faces link to the short videos, “a snapshot of the intense personal dramas unfolding across the nation.”

In one video, a woman from Moncton explains that she chose to move out of her rented apartment because she felt it wasn’t safe, even though she had nowhere to go.  Through At Home, she was able to buy a mobile home and now focuses on painting which helps her deal with her illness.

In another video, an older man, who is described as having lived on the streets for thirty years or more, says “I’d rather be back on the street because I understand the street better than living indoors.  Living outdoors you’re completely free. You’re independent….I wish I could still stay outside and just live life as it comes along, but unfortunately now I’m pension age.  And money changes you.  I have an income.”  A powerful message.

More videos will be posted as they are finished.

At its completion (March 2013), At Home will evaluate the cost-effectiveness of Housing First in comparison to treatment as usual for homeless adults with mental illness in five Canadian cities.  Alongside, the NFB films will be a lasting showcase of the personal stories and revelations of the participants.

This initiative comes at a time when many Canadian cities have produced, or are in the process of producing, 10 year plans to end homelessness.  In April 2012, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness was officially launched to advocate for and support development of more 10 year plans.

At Home, and Here at Home, will add to the paucity of Canadian information and research on the costs of homelessness, which in turn can be used by the Alliance and others to develop strategies to deal with homelessness.

News Briefs

Enter the National Youth Employment Innovation Awards Contest by July 6

The National Youth Employment Coalition is sponsoring the Second Annual National Youth Employment Innovation Awards.  The grand prize will be a 3-day registration package for the \
Futures Conference, including free registration, accommodation, meals, and up to $1000 travel subsidy.  Awards will be given for creativity and fresh thinking in improving employment prospects for youth.  Winning programs will be featured in the National Youth Employment Dialogues and presented in workshops at Futures. Review the award categories and contest criteria and then
submit your organization’s entry by July 6, 2012. Enter the contest to gain national exposure, recognition of your work, and an opportunity to win!

Making the Dream of Homeownership a Reality for Aboriginal Families

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) recently presented Habitat for Humanity Edmonton with the CMHC Award for Outstanding Contribution to Habitat for Humanity Aboriginal Housing. Habitat for Humanity Edmonton was chosen as this year’s award recipient for its role in helping to achieve the dream of homeownership for Aboriginal families in the Edmonton area. Its exemplary partnership project with Métis Capital Housing Corporation to retrofit existing rental housing for affordable homeownership has inspired other Aboriginal housing groups to emulate the partnership model.

Community-arts Initiative for Street-involved Youth in Toronto

SKETCH, celebrated its first year of fundraising to build its new cultural hub for youth in the new Artscape YOUNG place on Shaw Street. Donors for SKETCH's Capital Campaign "Home Is Where the Art Is" were treated to popcorn and the film Inocente, a documentary about a young homeless girl expressing herself through visual arts. Guests were also updated on the construction's progress, and SKETCH’s Executive Director Rudy Ruttimann spoke of the benefits the new build will bring to youth in the community,  “SKETCH will offer a larger creative space – literally and figuratively – where youth are inspired to view themselves as culture makers and not be defined by their circumstances."

Much Needed Renovations to Aging Housing Stock in Quebec Coming

Most of the province of Quebec’s affordable housing is now over 30 years old and in need of repairs. Advocates were relieved to hear recently that the governments of Canada and Quebec will have invested, by the end of the period from April 2011 to March 2013, more than $548 million to renovate, modernize and improve the federal-provincial social housing stock in Quebec.

Ending Youth Homelessness

At its Annual Congress in May 2012 in St John’s, the
Canadian Housing & Renewal Association (CHRA) launched Ending Youth Homelessness: A CHRA Policy Statement. The policy statement identifies the root causes of youth homelessness. It also includes recommendations for action and emphasizes that ending youth homelessness must be a national priority. They are urging the federal government to launch a plan that would complement a long-term national housing and homelessness strategy.

Regent Park Development Gets Boost

An 87-unit project located at 40 Oak Street in Toronto received more than $6 million through a joint investment under the Canada – Ontario Affordable Housing Program Agreement. The federal and provincial funding is complemented by $3 million in financial incentives from the City of Toronto, including waived development charges and property taxes. The new homes complement the innovative redevelopment of Regent Park that is now well underway.

Taking Opposition to Affordable Housing in Stride

More than 200 people, some very angry, showed up in June for a community consultation on a new housing project by the
Calgary Drop-In Centre. The meeting was held after the centre in Calgary announced it had purchased the local Quality Inn for affordable housing. Organizers, however, are not discouraged by the opposition. Neighbours expressed similar concerns in 2004 when the Drop-In Centre purchased a 50-unit building to turn into housing for vulnerable seniors. Neighbours now consider the building a community asset.

Shyfting Gears in Nova Scotia

After losing its provincial funding forcing its closure this past April, SHYFT is now focusing its short-term efforts on resuming supportive services for at-risk youth in Yarmouth by securing a Homelessness Partnering Strategy grant to hire two staff to provide outreach services.  SHYFT Youth Services is a safe and supportive housing option for youth between the ages of 16-24.

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