Assuring access to housing.

We cannot afford to do nothing about homelessness. In fact, we cannot afford to continue doing what we are doing. It costs more to manage the problem of homelessness than to fix it. And since homelessness is increasing, so are the associated costs for managing it.

The first and foremost goal of the Mayor’s Action Team on Homelessness is to identify and facilitate housing for the homeless. The second goal is to ensure coordination of existing services to provide support to individuals to assist them in staying housed, and to identify voids in these services.

The Mayor’s Action Team on Homelessness consists of several stakeholders in the community, each committed to ending homelessness. The team includes individuals who reside in the Tri-Cities, have experience or expertise in the issues related to homelessness, and have the time necessary to participate. The team invited and received extensive stakeholder comment on the plan before formalizing it. The team also developed a realistic timeframe, benchmarks, and celebrations of milestones along with a strategy to measure its successes. MATH will create the Homes For Good Society (HFGS), which will work with service providers, oversee service delivery, and coordinate potential resources to assist with the key elements of homelessness prevention (housing, support services, and adequate income).

This plan is based on two pillars, which will form the foundation for HFGS: finding homes for the homeless (closing the front door); and preventing homelessness, including preventing people from becoming homeless again (closing the back door). To support these two pillars, we have developed strategies around each.

We closely reviewed current, available literature on the strategies used in cities throughout Canada and the United States. We particularly heeded the lessons learned through the Housing First strategy used in Toronto.

It demonstrated that:
• housing homeless people directly from the street is a good business decision for private sector landlords,
• follow-up supports are needed to support the client, the landlord, and the community,
• using available services and programs to their maximum ability and only add new programs if it meets a demonstrated need and does not duplicate existing efforts,
• being housed, especially in the first few months, is a difficult adjustment and appropriate outreach services are fundamental to successful housing.

The first requirement for a successful strategy is to address the shortage of affordable permanent housing in Port Coquitlam and the Tri-Cities by identifying available inventory and working with landlords to facilitate an appropriate rental. The second requirement is to ensure the necessary supports and transitions needed to move people from the streets into their own homes are not just available but are made known to the people who need them.

Port Coquitlam’s solution must be meaningful, must be doable, and must be sustainable. The strategy must include both prevention and intervention. It isn’t enough to simply find homes for the homeless. The strategy must go hand-in-hand with supports that keep these individuals in their new homes. Only by addressing the root causes of homelessness can the problem be resolved.