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Housing and Homelessness

National Homelessness Initiative
2003 Community Plan Update Summary Oshawa/Durham

The federal government has announced that an additional $855,434 funding in National Homelessness Initiatives—Supporting Community Partnerships Initiatives (SCPI)—will be available to Oshawa/Durham for the period of 2003 to 2006. In order to access this funding, the federal government requires an update of the 2001 Community Plan for Homelessness in Durham.

Over the past three years, the goals and objectives of the National Homelessness Initiative (NHI) have evolved from enhancing emergency support services to a focus on the next steps in the continuum of supports provided in communities experiencing high rates of homelessness. The federal goal for the coming three years is to move more individuals and families into stable living environments, with access to transitional and supportive services and housing supports. This shift away from a focus on emergency homelessness responses is intended to improve living conditions for many homeless individuals and families. Ultimately, achieving a reduction in the overall emergency hostel population.

The NHI has also directed communities to consider the needs of at-risk Aboriginal people and youth in a manner that reflects the demographic profile of the homeless community. Meeting this requirement will necessitate further research in Durham.

Through a series of focus groups, key stakeholder interviews, community meetings and consultation with representatives from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSD), Durham residents and service providers have had an opportunity to identify community objectives, priorities and strategies, which will help to ensure appropriate services are available to members of the community who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless.

Objectives for the community plan

The following objectives for the Community Plan for Homelessness in Durham, as elaborated in the 2003 review, are:

  • The community plan will be used by community service organizations as a framework for achieving common goals to address the growing needs of homeless people.

  • The framework will encourage partnerships, including private sector support, for activities and projects that will be sustainable beyond 2006.
  • Agencies will provide services by making the best possible use of scarce resources. They will reduce overlap and duplication by documenting resources currently available, evaluating the effectiveness of these services, and ensuring that a continuum of support is available, including services that prevent homelessness. Community capacity issues will be addressed by fostering a "best practice" approach to project development and encouraging partnerships among the private sector, volunteer sector and non-profit organizations.
  • The community plan will enable service providers to evaluate progress in reaching objectives by providing tools to document service use and monitor trends in service delivery.
  • Priorities will be established that reflect service gaps. Funding will be targeted to ensure a continuum of support is provided across all Durham.
  • The community plan will serve as a guide for decision-making and evaluation of individual project proposals for addressing homelessness.
  • The plan will set a common vision for fundraising activities that will target priority areas, including the development of emergency, transitional and supportive housing units. It will encourage partnerships with both the private and non-profit sectors in developing new housing opportunities across Durham Region.

The Community Plan for Homelessness in Durham update has been forwarded to the national office of the NHI for review. It is anticipated that once the update is approved, community agencies wanting to access federal funding for homelessness will need to demonstrate how their projects meet these objectives.

Strengthening community capacity

As part of the update process, communities have been asked to identify activities required to strengthen the capacity of the community in achieving the objectives specified above. The following goals were identified for capacity building in Durham:

  1. Enhance the capacity of non-profit groups to develop and manage transitional, supportive and permanent housing programs.
  2. Further develop community awareness of homelessness in Durham Region.
  3. Expand potential private sector funder partnership opportunities.
  4. Undertake research on homelessness in Durham Region.

Communications strategy

A process for ensuring information related to the community plan, local needs and priorities, as well as a strategy for developing broad community support for homelessness initiatives, has been identified. The following goals were identified for a communications strategy in Durham:

  1. Expand awareness of homelessness issues in Durham Region.
  2. Enhance the participation of marginalized people in the community plan process.
  3. Ensure the widespread distribution of the community plan.

Service gap analysis

As part of the planning process, communities have been asked to identify gaps in the array of services currently available to homeless people. Through consultation with Durham Advisory Committee on Homelessness (DACH) members and other key stakeholders, the following outstanding needs exist in Durham:

Service Area


Emergency shelter

  • Between 2001 and 2003, an additional 20 hostel beds were added to the system. However, occupancy remains at or near 100 per cent.
  • No emergency beds exist for youth or specific family types.
  • Temporary accommodation is not available in rural areas of the region.
  • Agencies report the need for increasing the number of beds for people requiring support services, as well as developing more affordable rental housing, to move people into permanent housing more quickly.
  • Existing hostel beds for women are not accessible for people with physical disabilities.
  • A needs assessment is currently underway to confirm the type of emergency accommodation required in North Durham, including the number of beds required to meet service needs.

Transitional/Supported housing

  • Between 2001 and 2003, eight units of transitional housing were created.
  • Agencies report an increase in the number of homeless individuals who require supports to maintain housing in the community. For example, many repeat hostel users identify mental health and/or addiction issues as a contributing factor to their homelessness.
  • People with developmental delays also face challenges in maintaining housing in the community.
  • Youth in the region frequently lose what housing they are able to secure, as a result of a lack in support services.

Multi-service Centres/Drop-in centres

  • Service users indicate that, while drop-in centres provide a central place to find out where resources are in the community, accessibility to the resources remains a challenge.
  • Transportation costs, the lack of a co-ordinated transportation network across the region, and the lack of public transit in northern areas of the region make accessing services difficult.
  • Service users would like support agencies to decentralize services, co-locate, operate on an outreach basis, provide flexibility in service hours, or provide financial assistance for transportation and child-care costs.

Eviction prevention

  • Programs are needed to provide case management support to households that have been issued a notice under the "Tenant Protection Act", which can help them access resources available in the community. This could involve a partnership with Durham Legal Clinic, Housing Help Durham, John Howard Society, and the Region of Durham - Housing Services and Income and Employment Support divisions.
  • Support services are also required once a household exits a hostel or shelter to ensure that they are able to maintain their housing in the community. This could include landlord/tenant mediation services, peer mentoring, or case management support for the household.

Advocacy strategy

  • The community needs to develop a co-ordinated advocacy strategy targeting the role each sector has to play in addressing homelessness. This includes the role of business, labour, unions, as well as non-profit groups and faith-based organizations.
  • A strategic plan for involving local media, including print, television and radio needs to be developed.
  • Advocacy also requires strategic community based research to document homelessness in Durham—including the use of the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS) at facilities providing support services, in order to document service use and trends related to service needs.
  • Public awareness can be expanded through the development of projects that bring non-profit groups, faith-based organizations and the private sector, including business, labour and service clubs, together.
  • The community needs to develop an awareness campaign that maximizes existing assets, such as the Homeless Maze. In addition, groups providing support need to be recognized for their contributions to initiatives that address homelessness.

Interagency co-ordination and collaboration and capacity building

  • While there is considerable co-ordination and networking, linkages between agencies delivering similar services and linkages across the spectrum of services need strengthening.
  • Agencies frequently report lack of administrative capacity as an impediment to improved co-ordination and collaboration. Opportunities that support organizational capacity building are required. This can include the following activities:
    • Develop a directory of available homelessness services and resources, including service use and a demographic profile of Durham Region.
    • Evaluate existing programs to ensure service duplication is eliminated.
    • Implement HIFIS to capture service data at drop-in centres, hostels and other agencies where applicable.
    • Create partnership and mentoring opportunities for non-profit administration, including board governance, payroll and accounting systems, auditing support, etc.
    • Develop more efficient reporting tools for financial and service reporting for homelessness funds.
    • Inventory training resources available within the region, and create opportunities for agencies to lend/share training resources among local organizations.

Recommended funding priorities

In order to achieve the community objectives and address service gaps, the following activities require funding in Durham Region:

  1. Safe, affordable shelter and housing

This can be achieved through the following community activities:

  • Create partnerships to develop new transitional/supportive housing by sponsoring a project development forum in Durham, with representation from Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Durham Homebuilders' Association, trade industry experts, Human Resources and Skills Development, The Regional Municipality of Durham, and other potential funders and development experts.
  • Support the refurbishment of existing hostel beds to ensure accessibility by encouraging Shelter Enhancement Program (SEP) applications and Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) applications among eligible project proponents.
  • Support the provision of new hostel beds for all groups—especially youth, persons with mental health/addiction issues, and families not able to be accommodated through existing hostel beds. The goal is to expand current emergency bed capacity by at least 20 per cent.
  • Encourage a "best practice" approach to the development of new hostel beds/transitional housing units. Bring together existing emergency housing providers and new funding proponents to share information and help mentor new projects.
  1. Enhanced support services
  • Encourage partnerships between mental health and addiction service programs and emergency and transitional housing programs, in order to help people move from a reliance on emergency accommodation to transitional and permanent housing. These partnerships will help reduce recidivism in the hostel system.
  • Strengthen, increase and co-ordinate life skills, cultural support and employment training programs for urban Aboriginals and youth.
  • Increase preventative services, such as providing parenting education, life skills training and eviction prevention services, to help people become self-sufficient.
  • Co-ordinate and strengthen services to meet people's basic daily needs (e.g. food, hygiene, clothing, and social supports), including expanded hours of operation and transportation to programs and services.
  • Increase support services and improve access to health care for target populations, especially youth and persons with mental health/addiction issues, to help reduce use of emergency hostel and reduce length of stay in hostels and shelters.
  • Support research initiatives that document current services, identify and monitor trends in Durham related to homeless services, including the use of HIFIS in monitoring service use.