> Re­port urg­ing Ot­tawa to help peo­ple re­tain their homes,

Times Colonist - - The Capital - JOR­DAN PRESS

OT­TAWA — A new re­port calls on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to not just think about open­ing the back door to help peo­ple out of home­less­ness, but to close the front door as well, to make sure they don’t be­come home­less in the first place.

The pa­per re­leased Thurs­day by re­searchers at the Cana­dian Ob­ser­va­tory on Home­less­ness says that the money poured an­nu­ally into help­ing fund emer­gency ser­vices for the coun­try’s home­less is only one part of the equa­tion, as are ad­di­tional dol­lars spent on hous­ing those who need it.

What’s needed is a na­tional ap­proach that sees a need to stop home­less­ness from oc­cur­ring, sim­i­lar to the pre­ven­tive ap­proach taken in health care, the au­thors say.

They dis­cuss the need for in­come sup­ports for low-in­come earn­ers, such as higher min­i­mum wages or ben­e­fit rates, boost­ing the stock of af­ford­able hous­ing, anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion train­ing for so­cial work­ers, ser­vice providers and first re­spon­ders, as well as a more co-or­di­nated ap­proach to poverty spend­ing.

That spend­ing could in­clude, for ex­am­ple, pro­grams tar­geted at help­ing chil­dren in child ser­vices make the tran­si­tion to adult life, be­cause they are more likely to be­come home­less and stay that way longer, making it more dif­fi­cult to pull them out of it.

A spokes­woman for So­cial Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter JeanYves Du­c­los said the gov­ern­ment’s think­ing on home­less­ness is in line with the ap­proach the pa­per ad­vo­cates, point­ing to fed­eral spend­ing on men­tal health ser­vices, skills train­ing, and the new child ben­e­fit.

Yet even the au­thors of the re­port ac­knowl­edge that the idea of putting pub­lic dol­lars and ef­fort to­wards preven­tion is, in some cases, a con­tro­ver­sial idea.

“Could you imag­ine if we built our health-care sys­tem around the emer­gency depart­ment and said once we deal with all those peo­ple who come into emerg, then we’ll start talk­ing about other kinds of care,” said Stephen Gaetz, di­rec­tor of the ob­ser­va­tory and one of the au­thors of the study.

“It’s not con­tro­ver­sial to say we should pre­vent can­cer or the flu, or that we should pre­vent high­way traf­fic deaths, but it is around home­less­ness,”

The pa­per is the first of its kind in Canada to de­tail what is meant by pre­vent­ing home­less­ness — what works and what doesn’t work — and comes as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is set to re­lease a na­tional hous­ing strat­egy and are start­ing talks about the fu­ture of the gov­ern­ment’s cen­tral anti-poverty pro­gram.

The gov­ern­ment launched pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions in Fe­bru­ary to help craft a poverty re­duc­tion strat­egy and are set­ting up an ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee to pro­duce a na­tional pro­posal that it ex­pects to de­liver by the fall.

JONATHAN HAY­WARD, CP

A home­less man sleeps in a door­way in Van­cou­ver’s Down­town East­side in De­cem­ber.

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