Nfld. & Labrador

Front Step program launches with goal of ridding St. John's of homelessness by 2019

A local advocacy group has launched an aggressive campaign to help rid St. John’s of homelessness by 2019.
Project chair Shawn Skinner says the Front Step program will help homeless people in St. John's find housing. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

A local advocacy group has launched an aggressive campaign to help rid St. John's of homelessness by 2019.

End Homelessness St. John's chair Shawn Skinner announced the launch of the Front Step program on Wednesday.

The program is jointly led by Choices for Youth and Stella's Circle, and aims to provide housing services for what officials estimate is as an estimated 160 people experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness in St. John's.

"Our plan responds to advice we received from homeless persons and stakeholders from all sectors, and is based on 'Housing First' principles," Skinner said in a release. 

"Housing First" is an an approach to dealing with homelessness that provides access to permanent housing for the homeless right away without the need for psychiatric treatment or tests for sobriety, said Skinner. 

Before adopting this policy, Skinner said homeless people in the city had to visit various organizations around the city to see what support they qualified for.

"We basically are brokering for the people who are homeless to make sure that we're a one step shop. You come to us, we'll find out all the things we need to do to assist you."

According to Skinner, Front Step is working with private landlords and public housing to find spots for homeless people in need.

"There is housing available if the person wants it," he said. 

"There are people who don't necessarily want those services right away, but we still work with them, trying to get to the point where we can provide those services."

First phase underway

The $1.1-million first phase of the program is now getting underway, and Front Step organizers said they will work with people involved with other elements of the community plan to end homelessness to ensure that the principles of the Front Step program are adapted.

Officials say funding for the program will come from the Government of Canada through the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador through the Department of Advanced Education & Skills, Eastern Health, the City of St. John's, and the program's community-based delivery organizations Choices for Youth, the Iris Kirby House and Stella's Circle.

The program will be reviewed in 2017 for feasibility and then extended until 2019.