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- The wrong approach towards tackling homelessness
- At Home/Chez Soi (AHCS) Project- The Most Noteworthy Initiative
- The End Result of AHCS Project
- The National Housing Strategy (NHS)
- Reaching Home Initiative
- The Reaching Home policy objectives can be summarized in two points.
- What has been achieved so far?
- Homelessness and COVID-19
- There is a long road ahead
Do you know that around five percent of Canadians have been homeless and around 31 percent know someone who has experienced homelessness?
It was revealed in a survey conducted by Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) in 2020.
Homelessness isn’t a new problem in Canada, but the COVID-19 pandemic, which engulfed the world in early 2020, further elevated the problem.
The five percent might seem a small figure, but if you convert it to numbers, it translates to around 1.6 million Canadians.
The wrong approach towards tackling homelessness
You might be wondering what is so difficult about solving homelessness. Just build billions of houses. Technological advancements, such as the availability of pre-fabricated houses, have drastically reduced both the time and cost of building a house. We wish it was so easy. Tackling homelessness is a lot more than just building a house.
There is a need to take care of the mental being of homeless people, provide them with employment opportunities, and provide healthcare, among other things.
All this requires that different policymakers and relevant government stakeholders join their heads to formulate the most effective strategy to provide all of the above things to the out-of-home people.
In other words, there is a need to build more hospitals, more schools, and more offices for employment, among other things.
A task that is difficult but not impossible!
At Home/Chez Soi (AHCS) Project- The Most Noteworthy Initiative
There have been many attempts by the Canadian government in the past to solve homelessness. The most noteworthy of it was the “At Home/Chez Soi (AHCS) Project” initiative launched in 2009.
The At Home/Chez Soi (AHCS) project was undertaken to study the “Housing First” initiative, which launched in New York City in 1992.
The Housing First initiative immensely helped New York City in overcoming the housing shortage. One research conducted to study its effectiveness found the following remarkable results.
“139 tenants of the supported housing program achieved a housing‐retention rate of 84.2% over three years.”
The Canadian policymaker decided to decipher this successful program and determine whether or not it can be applied to solve the housing crises in Canada.
The aim was not to copy-paste it as that would mean a sure failure. Instead, take inspiration from the program and see how it can be used as a benchmark.
To give you an idea of the magnitude of this study undertaken by the Canadian government, around $110 million were allocated to the AHCS initiative.
So what was the end result?
The End Result of AHCS Project
The AHCS project was a huge success. It helped to greatly reduce the cost of homelessness in Canada.
10 years after launching the project, the number of cities adopting the housing first program increased from five to seventy, a clear indication of its effectiveness.
Let’s have a look at both policies in detail and whether or not they have succeeded in achieving their objectives.
The National Housing Strategy (NHS)
This was the first national policy that was announced on November 22, 2017. It was a massive 10 year, $40 billion plan aimed at improving the quality of housing for deserving people.
The program isn’t about just constructing thousands of houses, rather building supportive communities where people live a peaceful life and can fully integrate into society.
In budget 2019, more funds were allocated to the program, increasing its value to $70 billion.
The NHS is being implemented via federal and territorial partnerships, and from time-to-time various changes have been made to further improve the program and fast track its implementation.
From the timeline of the program (I.e., 10 years), you can guess yourself how detailed it will be. As such, it is impossible to discuss all of its aspects here. You can check out all the details yourself.
However, below are some of the highlights from the program
- Over 58,900 new units were constructed, and 68,000 repairs were made to existing houses.
- Agreements worth over $13.5 billion signed with 13 provincial and territorial partners.
- Rent supplements provided to over 5,000 low-income community housing units
- Multiple initiatives were launched to promote innovation, research, and best practices for solving the homelessness problem.
- Now let’s discuss about the second initiative.
Reaching Home Initiative
The Reaching Home initiative was launched on April 1, 2019, to work in tandem with the NHS. Reaching Home aims to cut homelessness by 50% by 2027-28.
A 50% reduction in less than a decade seems a challenging task but the Canadian government is up to the challenge!
The Reaching Home policy objectives can be summarized in two points.
- Adopt a data-driven and performance-based approach to solve homelessness. In other words, use the latest technology and data to address the challenge.
- Involve local communities to solve the problem by giving them funds and allocating targets to each community.
This is drastically different from all the previous policies in which only federal and territorial authorities were responsible for tackling the challenge.
In fact, everyone would agree that a community-based approach can fast-track the process. Such models have worked in the past in solving many problems, be it health-related education-related, or any other thing.
What has been achieved so far?
One thing is clear from all the above information. The government is serious in tackling the challenge and overcome the housing crisis.
The policies mentioned above are not the only ones undertaken by the government. They are just the most detailed policies.
As mentioned above, many of these policies showed positive results within a few years on launching, and that is a piece of evidence that things are moving in the right direction.
Homelessness and COVID-19
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada, among various others problems, the homeless people were at the highest risk of not only contracting the disease but also spreading it.
The government’s response towards this unprecedented problem was remarkable to say the least!
Here is what the government did.
They used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict who can become homeless and provide immediate assistance. According to the experts, the AI tool has an accuracy of over 93%.
There is a long road ahead
Despite numerous successful initiatives taken by the government, there is a lot of room still to be covered.
The unprecedented COVID_19 pandemic has not helped in any way.
Some experts believe that the pandemic has increased the number of homeless people in some cities. Moreover, it is hard to figure out whom these people are due to COVID-19 imposed restrictions.
However, this doesn’t mean that things have gone astray.
In September 2020, the government announced a $1 billion Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) to address the increased homelessness situation due to the pandemic.
RHI aimed at creating up to 3000 quick new housing units across the country. This will not only provide shelter to the deserving people but also create thousands of new jobs in the construction industry, something badly required during the pandemic.
Keeping in view the quick measures taken by the Canadian government for homeless people in response to COVID-19 and the dozens of policies formulated before that, it is safe to say that the government is well on track in solving the housing crises.
Not to forget that when the construction industry booms, it creates millions of jobs and helps the economy in numerous other ways.