Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/4/2011 (2210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg survey billed as the first specifically designed for the homeless reveals that emergency shelters are used sporadically. The city's reliance on charity-based shelters means the root of the problem goes unaddressed.
The Winnipeg Street Health Report, conducted for the Main Street Project, makes a strong case for a new strategy -- public investment in a "housing first" model used in other jurisdictions. In a pilot project, the concept saw 78 homeless Winnipeggers with identified mental illnesses set up in supported, stable housing in December.
The idea is to deal first with the dysfunction bred by homelessness so that underlying causes can be addressed amid stability.
How do people land in a shelter? Most surveyed battle mental illness, but the vast majority of 300 respondents said it was not their mental illness that left them homeless. Forty per cent said they simply couldn't afford rent; the provincial shelter allowance for a single person is $285 and the vacancy rate is well below one per cent. Close behind, though, was eviction/conflict with a landlord and drug/alcohol use.
Getting closer to the root, however, is this statistic: 43 per cent had been in the care of the child welfare system when young. Fifty-seven per cent were aboriginal and about half did not graduate from high school.
Behind the data is a picture of resiliency. These people clearly have the odds stacked against them yet more than 75 per cent had been homeless for fewer than five years total in the lifetime. Seventy per cent were homeless less than a year most recently. That indicates most were finding stable housing and rely on shelters sporadically.
The study calls for new or improved strategies to get people permanently into stable homes. The "housing first" model may address the weaknesses in the private or public housing markets.
Ultimately, a more useful strategy would target the issues that set people up to live on the edge. No young person, the report says, should be released from child welfare services incapable of supporting themselves. What that really says is child welfare agencies have to work harder much earlier in the lives of children to lay a foundation for success.