If you live in British Columbia, you likely already know that we are experiencing a housing affordability crisis throughout the province.
Housing affordability not only refers to the enormous barriers faced by those looking to own a home, but also to the ongoing struggle thousands of British Columbians face in finding safe, affordable rental housing or even shelter space.
Here are some statistics to demonstrate the magnitude of the crisis in BC:
- 7,655 individuals were identified as experiencing homelessness in the 2018 point-in-time count in BC, with 37% regularly living on the streets and not in shelter spaces
- Metro Vancouver has the second-highest housing prices in the world, and other areas of BC including Victoria, Kelowna, and the Fraser Valley are also some of the most unaffordable places in Canada
Given that we work directly with some of the most vulnerable people in our community, it may not be a surprise that homelessness, risk of homelessness, and inadequate housing pose significant challenges for many JHS service users.
People transitioning back to community from a correctional or hospital environment may be unable to provide employment or landlord references to secure available accommodation or work. Youth at risk, women fleeing violence, and Indigenous people also face unique and complex barriers to housing.
Here’s where our Community Housing Programs come in.
– Candice, a Housing Outreach Worker with one of our Community Housing Programs
Our Community Housing programs seek to promote and fulfill an individual’s human right to safe and affordable housing by connecting people experiencing homelessness or precarious housing to appropriate community resources that will enable them to secure and maintain long-term housing and end the cycle of homelessness.
Critical to our housing support programs is goal setting. This means listening to people about their needs and circumstances, beyond those specifically pertaining to housing. Once our team has a better understanding of somebody’s needs and circumstances, we can more effectively support them to bridge gaps in access to the services and supports needed for them to live more independently.
Doing this work is no easy feat.
– Candice, Housing Outreach Worker
Candice goes on to say that, “policies, eligibility, availability in services and/or systems change so rapidly. A barrier can arise simply from which representative you speak to at a government office or social service agency… There is, at times, a huge lack of consistency in the information provided from one person to the next within the same agency.”
This can make it more difficult to assist people facing complex barriers navigate through systems to find the information and support they need.
Despite the range of barriers and challenges faced by people we serve and our Community Housing team as they work together, we continue to find and build upon techniques that make efforts more successful.
To this end, collaboration is the name of the game.
– Lori, one of our Community Housing team members in Abbotsford
This is a common thread throughout our services and supports, not just our Community Housing Services. We are continuously looking to identify how we can build partnerships with governments, charities, employers, housing providers, Indigenous communities and Elders, and social service providers to better serve people in the community.
“We all [service providers and other stakeholders] come together and make sure we are connected and communicating so the people we serve get the best resources available to them in the community” – Lori
We also collaborate with our service users, who have lived experience accessing community supports, in order to determine where we might look to forage partnerships.
“You can learn a lot from the people we serve too. They are really resourceful, and they often know which services are good and which aren’t. Like which transition house is supportive, which employment programs are good, and which services may not set people up for success” – Candice
We have seen greater success in supporting people to find and maintain housing by listening to service users and building our network.
“This guy walked in looking for a housing subsidy and within two months of using our services we were able to help him get set up with housing, employment, and even a volunteer position… He couldn’t understand that somebody would want to help him without him having to pay us back. He is still employed, volunteering, and housed five months later” – Lori
While finding affordable, safe, and accessible housing that meets the needs of people facing complex barriers becomes increasingly hard across BC, we aren’t ones to shy away from a tough challenge and are always looking at new and innovative ways of creating safe, healthy, and inclusive communities for all.
This post is a part of a featured series celebrating John Howard Society Week 2020, an annual campaign that spreads awareness of the incredible work being carried out by John Howard Societies across Canada. To learn more about the JHS across the country, click here.