There are specific items that we as humans need in life in order to survive. The most basic of these needs are food and water, with warmth, rest, safety and security following closely behind. The fact that there is a huge shortage of safe and affordable housing within our city, province, and country becomes more alarming as we realize that people’s basic human needs are not being met. As a result there are clear impacts on the health and well being of people, as well as the associated cost and effect that this has on systemic supports. A Way Home Canada, which is a national coalition of individuals and organizations from across Canada who are invested in ending homelessness, has created a report calling on the Federal Government to create a National Housing Strategy that would result in incredible benefits for individuals and families across our country.
"It remains a harsh reality for many individuals and families in Canada that housing that is safe is not affordable, and housing that is affordable is not safe."
The creation of a National Housing Strategy would signify a significant step forward in providing what so many of us take for granted – safe and affordable housing that gives us a sense of home and enables us to thrive. It remains a harsh reality for many individuals and families in Canada that housing that is safe is not affordable, and housing that is affordable is not safe. Living with such uncertainty can have a tremendous impact on a person’s mental health and their ability to cope with the stressors of life. While it is certainly true that not everyone with mental health issues is homeless, it is very clear that for anyone struggling with housing stability and homelessness, their mental health is compromised on a daily basis. For those of us having difficulty understanding what this means, simply picture what it would feel like to not know if you could afford a home for your children, or in some cases, how it would feel to not know if you are safe in the place you sleep each night.
As a result, the creation of a National Housing Strategy is a key ingredient in the fight to prevent and end homelessness. In the case of youth homelessness, this strategy goes far beyond bricks and mortar to include the building blocks of support that youth need as they grow into adulthood. So many vulnerable youth struggle and do not have access to age-appropriate supports during such a critical developmental time in their lives. The resulting repercussions of these systemic gaps – youth homelessness, involvement with the criminal justice system, increased strain on the health care system, and potential for young people to become chronically homeless adults – are a stark reminder of just what is at stake. At Choices for Youth the number of youth accessing our services continues to climb dramatically, with over 1000 youth seeking help in 2015-16. For the young people who seek out our services, their lives might have looked dramatically different if there were greater supports in place to support their families, including a coordinated strategy for housing.
"...the solutions found within a National Housing Strategy are just as important to our population; there is nothing about being a smaller province that makes the reality of being homeless or struggling to find housing any less challenging."
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the scale of our population and the uniqueness of our culture often mean we are different in how many social issues affect our province. Yet, the solutions found within a National Housing Strategy are just as important to our population; there is nothing about being a smaller province that makes the reality of being homeless or struggling to find housing any less challenging. A National Housing Strategy represents a comprehensive solution to a complex problem. By investing in a long-term plan to create housing and support individuals and families in how they access and maintain safe and affordable housing, we begin to address the core needs of a growing vulnerable population in St. John’s and beyond. I encourage everyone to visit www.awayhome.ca to learn more about the National Housing Strategy and what steps need to be taken to help end homelessness in Canada.
Executive Director, Choices for Youth