Chronic homelessness reduced in Guelph-Wellington

GUELPH – The Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination highlighted its recent success in reducing chronic homelessness at a meeting with federal government officials.

The taskforce and its community partners presented recommendations to Ahmed Hussen, minister of families, children and social development and Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield on Jan. 6.

Discussion focused on the role the Government of Canada can play in supporting solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis in Guelph-Wellington. Hussen is the minister responsible for the National Housing Strategy.

The task force said local chronic homelessness declined by 29% from November 2018 to November 2019, and that greater success is possible with increased federal support.

Proposed solutions shared with the minister included increasing financial support for Guelph-Wellington’s efforts to end chronic homelessness through Reaching Home, Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.

They stressed the importance of a quality by-name list, identifying known homeless people in the community and a coordinated access system for services.

They also requested capital funding for permanent supportive housing to meet the complex needs of the homeless, saying there is a critical need in Guelph-Wellington for a dedicated building of about 30-units, with 24/7 staffing and tenancy determined through the by-name list.

In 2016, the taskforce and the County of Wellington decided to co-lead a local initiative under the umbrella of the national 20,000 Homes Campaign (now called Built for Zero) to end chronic homelessness in Guelph-Wellington.

Within a year of joining the campaign, Guelph-Wellington became the fourth community in Canada with a quality by-name list  and launched a coordinated access system that transformed the local homeless-serving system.

In November of 2018, there were 162 people on the by-name list. By November of 2019 that number dropped to 115.

The introduction of the list provided real-time, actionable data on local homeless individuals, to support the access system.

This has allowed Guelph-Wellington to target interventions and use limited funds more efficiently.

The 29% reduction as of November was due in part to leveraging Reaching Home (Canada’s Homelessness Strategy) funds to support data-informed interventions.

The task force said this is significant considering the small amount of funds received compared to similar communities.

Originally not included as a designated community, Guelph-Wellington was added as the 61st in response to community advocacy.

Guelph-Wellington used Reaching Home funds to support the introduction of a Diversion and Rapid-Rehousing worker, which has decreased inflow into chronic homelessness.

Introduced to the youth system in May 2019, the position has contributed to a reduction in newly identified youth from May 2019 to October 2019.

While chronic homelessness has been reduced, and Guelph-Wellington did receive an increase in Reaching Home funds last year, the task force says a lack of permanent supportive housing is still the greatest challenge to achieving greater success.