Take Action Now!

Effective measures do not always need to be costly. Moreover, waiting to secure funding (which may take a long time or never materialize) can sometimes become a crutch and hinder action to address immediate needs. The following steps can be taken almost immediately, and with modest expenditures. 

Create a Chief, Housing Position

Appoint a person with overall responsibility to address homelessness. This position could be filled by an existing municipal employee, a committee member, a volunteer or someone from an external organization. This person is responsible for the strategy’s implementation and collaborates with other agencies and levels of government.  

Establish a Homelessness Action Committee

Under the leadership of the Chief, Housing, the Homelessness Action Committee supports the strategy’s implementation. Homelessness “champions” are important for the success of the strategy. City councilors or administrators often fill this role, but community leaders can play a similar role. Endeavour to appoint some of these champions to your committee. For example, Committee members could include community organizers, church leaders, members of the business community, or social workers. Including community members who have experienced homelessness is especially helpful.

This Committee should meet regularly and report to municipal staff and council.

Identify Partners and Build Coalitions

Identify individuals and organizations willing to volunteer time and services to address homelessness. These partners could be community groups, neighbourhood or religious organizations, business associations or individuals.

It is good practice to detail the municipality’s and partner’s responsibilities in a written agreement. This agreement describes the type of services (e.g. housing, counselling, administration) and key components of the relationship such as compensation (if any), costs, indemnities, insurance, communications, default and enforcement. The terms and conditions of the partnering agreement may be subject to requirements under the municipality’s enabling legislation. The partnering agreement should also be approved by the municipal council.

Identify People who are Homeless and Assess their Needs

Identifying the people experiencing homelessness requires people “on the ground” and may be accomplished efficiently with volunteers and community organizations. Beyond just a list of names, it is valuable to learn the background, education, skills, challenges and support networks of individuals experiencing homelessness. As certain groups have unique needs, this information will help tailor efforts to help the most vulnerable including homeless youth, women and people with disabilities.

Identify Housing Options

Identify and secure space for short-term and long-term accommodation. Ideally, housing should be accessible to transit, counselling, healthcare and other support services. The objective is to find affordable housing that meets the needs of the municipality and the individuals.

The Homelessness Action Committee should maintain a current inventory of spaces. Consider a variety of housing options:

Municipal property

Vacant industrial, commercial or residential property owned by the municipality. In urgent situations, it may include temporary use of outdoor space such as a campground or vacant lot. This is probably the most inexpensive and flexible option – although the costs of converting these spaces into livable areas must be considered. The disadvantage is that the municipality assumes the cost and responsibility for maintenance and supervision.

Leased premises

Rental accommodations, hotels and motels. The advantage is more availability and management by a third party, freeing up time and resources for the municipality. It will likely be more expensive, though.

Specially built housing for homeless people

While this is an ideal solution, it will often rely on funding from other levels of government and may take months or years to complete.

Housing offered by non-profit organizations

Group homes, emergency shelters, halfway housing or other forms of housing. This may include specialized programs meant to serve groups such as women fleeing violence. The advantage of this option is that the non-profit organization often assumes responsibility for the funding and administration of the housing.

Access Government Funding

Municipalities should be aware of funding opportunities from other levels of government.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) funds affordable housing for provinces and territories through its Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) program. The IAH program funds initiatives for new construction, renovation, home ownership assistance, rent supplements, shelter allowances, accessibility modifications and accommodations for victims of family violence.

The federal government has committed more than $1.9 billion to the IAH program over eight years, with provinces and territories matching those investments. Funding for the IAH program is conferred under bilateral agreements between CMHC and all provinces and territories. The agreements require provinces and territories to report publicly on intended outcomes and their progress. See copies of the agreements and public reports for each province and territory.

In addition to IAH funding, provinces and territories may have their own programs to fund affordable housing.