The Calgary Homeless Foundation is reporting an 11.4 percent drop from 2008 in the number of homeless people in its latest count. This is the first decrease in homelessness in Calgary in two decades. The foundation is a multi-sectoral collaboration linking community, the private sector and government. Calgary was the first Canadian city to adopt a rigorous 10-year plan to end homelessness. Now housing experts across the country are looking for lessons from Calgary to apply to their home communities.
The Wellesley Institute set out its Blueprint to End Homelessness in Toronto in 2006 and submitted it to the City of Toronto as the plan to end homelessness. Unfortunately it wasn’t fully adopted. Today, Toronto still does not have a comprehensive plan to prevent and end homelessness, despite Toronto City Council adopting an affordable housing strategy called Housing Opportunities Toronto (HOT) in 2008. The HOT plan was much less comprehensive than Wellesely Institute’s Blueprint. Worse yet, the fiscal 2012/13 Toronto budget includes cuts to the Affordable Housing Office which means Toronto will fall short of its HOT targets in the coming years, making a bad situation worse.
Research by the Wellesley Institute and others demonstrates that a good home is vital to individual and population health. The Street Health Report 2007 provides a comprehensive overview of the health status of homeless people. The Wellesley Institute’s Precarious Housing in Canada 2010 includes a review of recent research on housing and health, and includes data on housing issues across the country. Research tells us that investing in affordable housing programs decreases the pressure on other parts of the social system, and is better for the overall health and well-being of everyone.
With Calgary leading the way, it’s time we re-visit and re-invest in Toronto’s commitment to ending homelessness.