A safe place to call home

Home­ward Bound strives to put peo­ple in good places. Through the pro­gram, in­dige­nous res­i­dents are get­ting help find­ing re­li­able, safe hous­ing.

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - NI­COLE O’REILLY

At the end of the day, Natasha Find­layClair­mont has a safe place to go — a house that she can build a life from.

But it’s not just a house, it’s a home, with her beau­ti­ful hand­made dream­catch­ers fill­ing a small, but bright liv­ing room and two bed­rooms where her kids no longer have to worry about how low the ther­mo­stat will dip overnight.

“It’s ev­ery­thing to me, at the end of the day, tak­ing your shoes off and know­ing you are safe,” she said.

This home came just in time for the 30year-old sin­gle mother who was evicted from a down­town apart­ment last year af­ter it was sold to a new land­lord. She lived there for two years with­out heat, but couldn’t find any place new and was fac­ing home­less­ness, again.

That’s where Home­ward Bound, a hous­ing first pro­gram that runs out of De dwa da dehs nye>s Abo­rig­i­nal Health Cen­tre, stepped in. Since it launched in 2015, it has found hous­ing for 92 peo­ple who iden­tify as in­dige­nous in Hamilton, said team lead Dick Pass­more.

The hous­ing first ini­tia­tive helps con­nect home­less or pre­car­i­ously housed peo­ple with sta­ble res­i­dences. They act as an ad­vo­cate for the men, women and fam­i­lies and a go-be­tween with land­lords.

Par­tic­i­pants don’t have to be in­volved in other pro­gram­ming but the team in­cludes a nurse prac­ti­tioner and so­cial work­ers who can help con­nect them with med­i­cal care or so­cial ser­vices.

“The key is re­con­nect­ing to cul­ture and com­mu­nity,” Pass­more said, adding the team of­fers “wrap­around” care.

They don’t tell par­tic­i­pants what to do, but rather say, “We’re go­ing to walk with you.”

The team does out­reach on the streets, takes re­fer­rals from other agen­cies and has even had clients re­fer friends.

There are spe­cific risk fac­tors for home­less­ness among Hamilton’s in­dige­nous pop­u­la­tion be­cause of the im­pacts of sys­temic racism, in­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion, in­ter­gen­er­a­tional trauma and poverty. The pro­gram is suc­cess­ful in reach­ing peo­ple who oth­er­wise are likely to fall through the cracks be­cause many don’t trust main­stream in­sti­tu­tions.

In­dige­nous peo­ple make up about 3 per cent of Hamilton’s pop­u­la­tion, but more than 40 per cent of the home­less pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to a 2015 sur­vey, Pass­more said.

Be­fore find­ing the Home­ward Bound team, Find­lay-Clair­mont says she was call­ing every so­cial ser­vice agency across the city look­ing for af­ford­able hous­ing.

“You’re just a num­ber, just a file at the bot­tom of a pile.”

She has been on her own since she was 13. She’s re­source­ful and doesn’t like to ask for help. But she re­ally needed it.

A year ago, she was hit by a car, caus­ing lin­ger­ing in­juries and PTSD.

At the time, she was study­ing full-time at Mo­hawk Col­lege, rais­ing her kids and try­ing to find a safe place to live.

Fi­nally, Find­lay-Clair­mont says she broke down at a med­i­cal ap­point­ment at De dwa da dehs nye s. A doc­tor brought her case to the hous­ing team, who found her home through a part­ner­ship with Ur­ban Na­tive Homes.

She moved into her home in Jan­uary, just days be­fore she would have been home­less.

It was the “hard­est cou­ple months of my life,” she said of the time be­tween get­ting the evic­tion no­tice and find­ing her new home.

She grad­u­ated in April with a diploma in early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion and was awarded the In­dige­nous Stu­dent Award for Per­se­ver­ance.

Now she has less than a month to find a job or file for so­cial as­sis­tance as an in­come is needed to keep her home.

Not all of those that the pro­gram helps are as suc­cess­ful at Find­lay-Clair­mont. Some have men­tal ill­ness, ad­dic­tions, le­gal is­sues or brain in­juries.

The team is al­ways look­ing for new apart­ments or land­lords will­ing to work with them — a chal­lenge in a city that does not have enough af­ford­able hous­ing. Find­ing ac­ces­si­ble hous­ing is a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge.

Still, more than 90 per cent of the 92 peo­ple housed through the pro­gram re­main in their new res­i­dences, Pass­more said.

“All these lay­ers of sup­port are so peo­ple don’t fall through the cracks.”

Natasha Find­lay-Clair­mont moved into her new home in Jan­uary, just days be­fore she would have been home­less.

JOHN REN­NI­SON, THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

Dick Pass­more, the team lead for Home­ward Bound, says cul­tural and com­mu­nity con­nec­tions are im­por­tant for clients.

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