'Housing first' to help homeless

Published on thewhig.com // May 6, 2013

KINGSTON - A plan to reduce homelessness in Kingston by 60% over the next 10 years was presented to the public on Monday.

It will rely heavily on a “housing first” policy to help deal with the estimated 400 people in Kingston living on the streets or in temporary situations.

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Source

 

The plan was presented to about 75 people at the Invista Centre by Iain De Jong, president of OrgCode Consulting, who said successful homelessness programs target those with the deepest needs, including mental health issues.

“There’s no such thing as being ready for housing,” said De Jong. “Everybody is ready for housing.”

Another component of the plan calls for “rapid re-housing” of people who are occasionally homeless and whose single issue can be dealt with through the private housing market.

If the plan is adopted, in 10 years the number of shelter beds used nightly would drop from 57 to 23.

The city’s six shelters and 78 beds would be reduced to three shelters and 30 beds.

“I’m not anti-shelter,” said De Jong. “A shelter should never become a de facto home for anybody.”

He pointed out that the plan can only be successful if all services across Kingston, including hospitals and social agencies, work together.

“We need conviction in the community,” said De Jong, who noted that the turnout for Monday’s afternoon presentation was larger than in any other city he’s been.

At least one member of the audience, however, was skeptical about the ability of severely mentally ill homeless people to remain stable in their new homes under the housing-first plan.

De Jong said support services are crucial and must be “client-centred” and geared to each person so they receive the necessary back-up.

He presented results from a number of studies showing exponentially better results from housing first than from programs where people have to first meet specified criteria for selection.

“If you take care of people’s housing needs it is much easier to work on the bigger life issues,” he said.

City housing manager Sheldon Laidman said the review process for the OrgCode strategy will begin this week at the homelessness and housing committee.

It will eventually have to be endorsed by city council and then go to the ministry of municipal affairs and housing.

De Jong debunked the myth that most people who would take advantage of a housing-first strategy would flock to Kingston from out of town.

And he presented a number of statistics about Kingston’s homeless people:

  • 89% are in Kingston while 11% in Frontenac county;
  • 71% are male and 29% are female;
  • 75% are not attached to families, while 25% are;
  • 61% are adults, 27% youths and 12% seniors;
  • 1 in 6 are chronically homeless.

“There’s only one known solution to homelessness – housing,” said De Jong. “It’s the only known cure.”

 

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About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.


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