Backgrounder: Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy
Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy
Reaching Home is designed to support the goals of the National Housing Strategy, in particular to support the most vulnerable Canadians in maintaining safe, stable and affordable housing and to reduce chronic homelessness nationally by 50 percent by 2027–28. Reaching Home puts communities at the forefront of tackling homelessness. While Housing First remains the model supported by the Government of Canada, and an effective tool to reduce homelessness, we chose to give communities more flexibility in how they use their funding to meet local needs, including the needs of vulnerable populations such as young people, LGBTQ2 communities, women fleeing violence, racialized communities, veterans and persons with disabilities.
Engagement on the design of the modernized federal homelessness program
Over the past year, the Government of Canada consulted with stakeholders, provinces, territories, Indigenous partners and people with lived experience of homelessness on how to modernize programming to better prevent and reduce homelessness across Canada. These consultations were guided by the work of an Advisory Committee of experts and stakeholders in the field of homelessness, and chaired by Parliamentary Secretary Adam Vaughan (Housing and Urban Affairs), and consisted of 10 roundtables across the country.
The Government also launched an online feedback survey that was open from July 17 to September 15, 2017, seeking input from all Canadians and organizations with ideas and suggestions on how to prevent and reduce homelessness in Canada.
Throughout the engagement activities undertaken in 2017, the Government heard from a wide diversity of individuals, organizations and partners across the country on how to better tackle homelessness. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy Engagement—What We Heard Report 2018 contains highlights from feedback received throughout the consultation process. The Government released the Advisory Committee on Homelessness’ Final Report and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy—What We Heard Report on May 18, 2018.
Highlights of Reaching Home
Expanding the program’s reach
Throughout the engagement process, the Government heard that the greatest asset of the current Homelessness Partnering Strategy is that it is a community-based program. Through Reaching Home, the Government will reinforce this approach and expand program reach to new designated communities. New communities will be added through an open and transparent application process to be launched early 2019. This expansion will not affect the funding received by the existing 61 designated communities, as funding for these communities will not decrease.
More flexibility for communities under an outcomes-based approach
The Government of Canada has heard that quickly providing people with independent and permanent housing first, and then providing additional supports and services, is a proven way to reduce homelessness. These approaches will continue to be a priority across communities; however, we heard from stakeholders and community partners that greater flexibility in how funding could be used was needed.
Building on the successful adoption of Housing First as a best practice, the Government will work with communities to develop and deliver data-driven system plans with clear outcomes. This new outcomes-based approach will give communities greater flexibility to identify, test and apply innovative solutions and evidence-based practices that achieve results for vulnerable Canadians, including the National Housing Strategy target of a 50‑percent reduction in chronic homelessness as well as prevention-based outcomes that stem the flow of at-risk communities into homelessness. This will keep decision-making where it should be, at the local level, and will give communities greater flexibility to address local priorities, including using Housing First approaches, homelessness prevention and programming designed to meet the needs of different vulnerable populations (for example, youth, women and children fleeing violence, racialized communities and veterans) for whom Housing First investments may need to be supplemented by other investments and supports.
Addressing Indigenous homelessness
In alignment with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Homelessness, the Government recognizes the need to address the over-representation of Indigenous people in Canada’s homeless population. While Indigenous people are eligible for services under all funding streams of the program, through Reaching Home, the Government will increase dedicated funding for Indigenous-led homelessness initiatives to support the availability of culturally appropriate services.
Addressing homelessness in the territories
Reaching Home will create a new Territorial Homelessness stream that will collapse existing regional funding streams into a single envelope. This stream will retain the community-based nature of the program while offering more flexibility in how funding can be used to address the unique homelessness challenges in the territories.
Introduction of Coordinated Access
Reaching Home will support knowledge collection and sharing as well as introduce coordinated access as a program priority. Coordinated Access will help communities shift toward a more coordinated and systems-based approach to addressing homelessness. To support this transformation, federal funding will be provided to designated communities to help them implement coordinated access, including adopting the necessary information technology infrastructure. Adopting a federal focus on this approach was a key recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Homelessness. The goal of Coordinated Access is to help communities ensure fairness, prioritize people most in need of assistance and match individuals to appropriate housing and services in a more streamlined and coordinated way. This will translate to better outcomes for individuals and for the community as a whole. Several Canadian communities have already made progress towards its implementation.
Shifting towards Coordinated Access also means that communities will gather more comprehensive data on their local homeless population. In time, communities will be able to establish baselines against which progress toward important outcomes—like the reduction of chronic homelessness—can be measured. This will allow them to identify trends so they can celebrate and share successes and determine where more focus is warranted.
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