Monday, January 30, 2017

Working towards a regional response to reducing homelessness in Metro Vancouver

The issue of people experiencing homelessness does not stop at the City of Langley border. It is a regional issue that is impacting every community, to various degrees, throughout Metro Vancouver. While it is good that each community develops a plan to reduce homelessness —Langley City has such a plan— it will take regional advocacy and action to move forward in a meaningful way.

If we approaching reducing homelessness from a regional level, we will have a stronger voice when requesting funding and programs from the provincial and federal governments. A regional strategy will also help ensure that one municipality’s response to reducing homelessness won’t simply shift people who are currently homeless to another community.

In fact, it is important that people have access to resources in their own community to: prevent homelessness, have emergency intervention services with the goal of getting people out of homelessness, and have access to housing.

Metro Vancouver —the regional district— launched a “Regional Homelessness Task Force” which started meeting at the beginning of December. Francis Cheung who is the Chief Administrative Officer of Langley City is on the task force.

By the end of February, the task force is to deliver the following:

  • Estimates on the number of people who are homeless in Metro Vancouver
  • Information on the frequency and volume of turnaways from Metro Vancouver shelters
  • A summary of experiences from Metro Vancouver municipalities dealing with street homelessness and encampments
  • The amount of permanent shelter and interim housing space needed immediately to address homelessness and tent cities in Metro Vancouver

With the provincial election coming up, and the upcoming National Housing Strategy to be released, the immediate goal will be to use the information gathered from the task force to advocate from the regional level for funding and resources to get people off the streets and out of tent cities.

At one of the previous task force meetings, the following chart was presented as part of a “Regional Homelessness Conceptual Framework.

Regional Homelessness Conceptual Framework: A Mental Model. Select chart to enlarge.

The current request from the region is to get people who are experiencing homelessness the help they need including shelter and a path to permanent housing. Going forward, it will be equally important to look at how to break the cycle of people becoming homeless in the first place.

The green arrows on the chart show people groups who are most at risk of experiencing homelessness which feeds into the “Pathways In” section of the chart. One of the things that stood out to me is that military service is a pathway into homelessness as is aging out of foster care.

The reasons why a person can come to experience homelessness is complex. A regional response with the support of the provincial and federal governments is essential to breaking the cycle of homelessness, and giving people a way out of homelessness.

No comments: