Plan to house 20K homeless people will be piloted in Hamilton

Hamilton will be one of three pilot cities participating in an effort to provide places to live, accompanied by supportive services, for people experiencing homelessness.

20,000 Homes campaign modeled on similar successful program in the U.S.

Hamilton will be one of three pilot cities in a new venture to provide longer-term housing and supports to vulnerable homeless people. (Pabak Sarkar, Flickr cc)

Hamilton will be one of three pilot cities participating in an effort to provide longer-term places to live, accompanied by supportive services, for people experiencing homelessness.

The 20,000 Homes program emphasizes using data to track progress and having personal interactions with each homeless person in a given community. It's modelled after a successful 100,000 Homes program in the U.S., and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness will be formally launching the program in June.

In the meantime, Hamilton officials are seeking volunteers to help with the initial assessment process — meeting people, interviewing them about their health and social needs, and completing surveys to be shared with staff to prioritize who might benefit most from the program. Those interviews will happen April 26 and April 27; volunteers can sign up here.

The "housing first" approach holds that for many vulnerable people who have been persistently homeless, a stable, consistent place of one's own is a much better foundation than a transitional shelter for confronting issues that led to the homelessness to begin with. In Hamilton, 3,114 people stayed in an emergency shelter in 2014.

Last year, Hamilton's federal funding for homelessness switched to a model that designates 65 cents out of every dollar of funding for "housing first" placements. Hamilton's Transitions 2 Home program out of Wesley Urban Ministries found housing matched with supportive services and social connection for 102 men in 2014.

That program was deemed effective by Julia Woodhall-Melnik, the author of a year-long study out of McMaster and the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto​. A similar program, Supporting Our Sisters, housed 46 women in 2014.

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca | @kellyrbennett