Guelph and Wellington part national effort to end chronic homelessness

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Guelph and Wellington County are part of a new national effort to end chronic homelessness. 

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) launched the initiative March 6, after its 20,000 Homes Campaign successfully housed 21,254 of Canada’s most vulnerable homeless people. 

The new initiative, Built for Zero Canada (BFZ-C), aims to help a core group of leading communities end chronic homelessness, as a first step to eliminating all homelessness in Canada.

 Guelph-Wellington joined the 20,000 Homes Campaign in December 2015 and will continue with BFZ-C, the county stated in a press release.

The 20,000 Homes Campaign resulted in 21,254 individuals experiencing chronic, episodic or high-acuity homelessness move into long-term housing. Of those, 508 were reported in Guelph and Wellington County.

“Joining the 20,000 Homes Campaign has enabled Guelph-Wellington to move forward as a community in a coordinated effort to address and eliminate homelessness,” stated Warden Kelly Linton.

Tim Richter, president and CEO of Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, said “Homelessness is a crisis that has lost its sense of urgency. The 20,000 Homes Campaign created a sense of urgency in communities across the country and helped energize efforts to end homelessness.

“Most importantly our community partners ended homelessness for 21,254 people and we learned together what it really takes to end chronic homelessness. We’ll apply those lessons through Built for Zero Canada to help communities across Canada end chronic homelessness.”

BFZ-C officials say the new initiative uses a data-driven approach that focuses on optimizing local homeless systems, accelerating the adoption of proven practices. 

“Communities are using real-time, person-specific data on everyone experiencing homelessness to build more coordinated homeless systems and reduce chronic homelessness,” said 20,000 Homes campaign director Marie Morrison, now director of BFZ-C. 

“This relentless … approach is getting results and showing that together, we can end chronic homelessness.”

The County of Wellington was the fourth community in Canada to achieve a quality by-name-list and has launched a coordinated entry system that has transformed the homelessness serving system in the community. 

“We know that not one agency or one level of government alone can address such a complex issue, but that together with a common goal and a coordinated community response, we can make significant impact,” stated  county director of housing Ryan Pettipiere.

“We believe ending chronic homelessness is possible in our community and the 20,000 Homes Campaign has provided us with continued inspiration to do so.”

Core elements of the 20,000 Homes Campaign and Built for Zero Canada are embedded in Canada’s new homelessness strategy, Reaching Home, which launches in April.

The 20,000 Homes Campaign was supported by a grant from Employment and Social Development Canada. 

“Community leadership, evidence-based decision making and building coordinated systems are at the heart of Reaching Home,” said Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean Yves Duclos.

“I want to thank CAEH and most importantly the communities of the 20,000 Homes Campaign for your efforts and congratulate you on your success.”

Duclos added, “We have learned a great deal from our partnership with you and look forward to working closely with you through the implementation of Reaching Home. Together … we will continue to work towards our common vision of eliminating homelessness in Canada.” 

Since joining the campaign, Guelph and Wellington have partnered to coordinate two joint point-in-time counts. A 2018 count recorded 325 individuals experiencing homelessness in Guelph-Wellington. Of those, 81 per cent were residing in Guelph on the night of the count and 19% were residing in Wellington County.