02.01.12 First United
The sanctuary at First United Church, 90 people can sleep in this area.
photo: Dan Toulgoet

The Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness recommends proposals for funding under the Homelessness Partnering Strategy for infrastructure and services for people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness in the Metro Vancouver region.  The latest funding has just been released for $11 million. 

The HPS is a federally-funded $135 million annual program created in 2007 to support communities across Canada seeking to address homelessness.  The Metro Vancouver region’s share of the program is approximately $8.2 million per year, for a three-year total of $24.6 million.  The RSCH, which acts as the Community Advisory Board under the HPS program, recommends projects for funding with the final approval coming from Metro Vancouver, the administrative partner in the HPS program. 

After the Community Plan was approved by the Minister in August of 2011, a call for proposals was issued to invite applications to deliver service projects to address homelessness.  Eighty nine (89) project proposals were received and on January 25th, 43 of the projects were recommended by the RSCH to receive funding.  The administration of this region’s share of HPS funds was transferred to Metro Vancouver, with the RSCH as the HPS Community Advisory Board, from Service Canada under an agreement with the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) in April 2011.  The agreement currently provides for Metro Vancouver to administer the funds for a three-year renewable period, beginning on April 1, 2011. 

To date, Metro Vancouver has approved 42 of the 43 RSCH-recommended projects to receive funding.  The projects will be delivered by 39 service providers who serve the entire Metro Vancouver region.  Metro Vancouver will enter into agreements with each of the service providers by March 31, 2012.  

Funding is targeted at many services for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, such as outreach services, which connect homeless people to income assistance, housing and community-based health services, as well as infrastructure projects such as emergency shelters and transitional housing. 

The latest release of $11 million in funding is specifically geared to homeless services during the next two years.  This is over and above $5.1 million already committed to services in the current fiscal year that ends on March 31, 2011.  Another tranche of approximately $6.5 million is expected to be awarded later this year for infrastructure projects. 

How is the work of the HPS program shared between Metro Vancouver and the RSCH?  

According to Kingsley Okyere, Manager of the Homelessness Secretariat, “Metro Vancouver’s key role under the funding agreement is to receive and administer HPS funds on behalf of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC).  The RSCH, with support from Metro Vancouver, is expected to represent the community and to advise Metro Vancouver on the distribution of HPS funds in the region.  The RSCH does this through development of funding priorities in a Community Plan, (available on the Metro Vancouver website at http://www.metrovancouver.org/planning/homelessness/Pages/default.aspx) and recommending proposed projects for HPS funding to the Metro Vancouver Housing Committee for final approval.

Additional technical support is provided by Vancity Community Foundation through a business services agreement signed in September 2011. 

The Table below shows how the funds just released are distributed across the funding priorities as described in the Community Plan:  

Community Plan Priority Number of Projects Total Funds Allocated
Outreach services 11 $2,766,889
Emergency shelter services 5 $2,362,528
New/enhanced support services for underserved populations 11 $2,123,127
Prevention services 5 $1,495,766
Transitional and supportive housing services 4 $1,383,175
Mental health and addiction treatment services 3 $449,584
Community and partnership development 3 $275,967
Total 42 $10,857,036 

Since 2002, the regional homeless count has been conducted every three years by the Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness as a 24-hour snapshot of the homeless popluation.  It provides an important context for many of the decisions that the region makes on homelessness, including the allocation of HPS funds.

The final results of the latest regional homeless count conducted on March 16, 2011, were released on February 28, 2012.  The results showed that there were 2,650 homeless people in the Metro Vancouver region on March 16, 2011, virtually unchanged compared to the 2008 figure of 2,660.  The figure below compares the total counted popluation to previous Metro Vancouver homeless counts.

The 2011 report confirms important trends in who is represented within the homeless population.  The numbers of persons who stayed on the street, in doorways, in parkades, in parks, and on beaches, decreased dramatically by 52%, with the sheltered population increasing by 74%.  This was reportedly attributed to an increase in the supply of shelter beds. 

In terms of overrepresented populations, Aboriginal people remain high with 27% of homeless people identifying as Aboriginal on the day of the count. 

Alice Sundberg, Co-chair of the RSCH commented that, “Unfortunately, the count also revealed that within the homeless population there was a sharp rise in the number of families with children, women, and unaccompanied youth.”   The representation of persons under the age of 25 grew by 9% since 2008, and 25% since 2005.  Women now represent 30% of the homeless population, growing from 26% in 2005. 

“The count found that in almost all cases, homelessness resulted in part from a lack of affordable housing, income security or support services.”  

The number of families counted in 2011 was the highest ever, with a total of 56 families, accompanying a total of 54 children.  32 of the 54 children were under the age of 12, with just over half of all families reported being homeless due to family breakdown, abuse or conflict.

The full report can be found at http://stophomelessness.ca/homeless-count/final-homeless-count-report.

This year’s count was funded by the United Way of the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Foundation, City of Vancouver and the Surrey Homelessness and Housing fund. 

by James Foster, Community Voicemail Project Manager

Wherever there is isolation, so too thrives addiction, mental illness and lost opportunity. To help, Lu’ma Native Housing Society provides banks of live, local phone numbers with personal greeting and voice mail to homeless and crisis service providers all over the GVRD. Caseworkers at these agencies then pass these on to homeless/phoneless/impoverished clients to help them identify and achieve goals. This simple yet vital tool is an effective addition to any “game plan” for exiting homelessness and improving one’s life. Today 1,200 CVM numbers–which look like any other local number–are given to clients in need through 65 CVM Partner Agencies in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Surrey, Whalley, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam. Clients average using their number for 6-8 months and case workers receive monthly “User Reports” which allow them to see if clients are using their numbers or not. If yes – Great. If not – Case workers may either re-open that origianl dialogue about set-goals or elect to simply re-set and “recycle” the number to give to another client in need. Any homeless service provider who helps impoverished citizens are welcome to come onboard as a CVM Partner Agency. CVM builds confidence and dignity in its members while combating Poverty Stigma: a common anecdote is that if a person living in a shelter puts the phone number of that shelter on their resume or housing application, that potential landlord or employer hangs-up when they call with what would have been good news. Since its launch in February 2010, over 1,100 people have signed-up for CVM and 187 have cycled-off: 63 homeless have found Housing, 53 received Health Care, 47 unemployed found Employment, 36 had Contact with Family, 34 received Social Services and 27 fleeing abuse have had Safe Communication.

If your organization helps homeless and impoverished people and you think CVM would help, contact CVM project manager James Foster at 604-876-0811 ext 232 or email at jfoster@lnhs.ca.

Today is National Aboriginal Day and the RSCH would like to express support for our sister agency, the Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee (AHSC), and all Aboriginal-serving agencies and peoples across the region and across Canada.

National Aboriginal Day was first initiated by the Governor General of Canada in 1996 and nationwide celebrations are currently taking place to honour Aboriginal heritage and traditions. These shared festivities continue to work towards a healthy future of mutual respect and understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples inCanada.

In the homelessness sector, we often see firsthand the trauma inflicted by the past – trauma that continues to cycle through to the present and remains evident in the disproportionate number of Aboriginal people in our homeless count numbers. We also see the incredible spirit and work of the AHSC and Aboriginal-serving agencies leading the way forward from survival to restored and healthy communities.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo says: “Today we celebrate the traditions and teachings of our ancestors and look to our youth to carry them forward.  First Nation young people, the fastest and largest growing population in Canada, and the leaders of today, must be supported in their efforts to motivate change for future generations.”

The RSCH remains committed to support this work in partnership with the AHSC.

RSCH members and various stakeholders across the region are currently involved in identifying priority areas for the next three years of homelessness funding and policy.

2011-2014 HPS Community Plan   The Community Plan is a HRSDC requirement for HPS funding allocation over the next three years. Without the plan, the RSCH cannot make any recommendations for funding. In order to ensure that there is no disruption to service projects currently receiving funding, it is imperative to complete the community plan by the summer, seek ministerial approval, and initiate a proposal call. The HPS Community Plan process will flow into the revision of the Regional Homelessness Plan: Three Ways to Home in the Fall. Project consultants (Community Focus) have been contracted to complete the 2011-2014 Community Plan. This includes gathering and analyzing statistics and consulting with community stakeholders on trends, gaps and priority areas for funding.

Community Development Portfolio   As many of you know, part of the strategic planning process is to ‘take pause’ and evaluate how best to spend funding allocated for community development. RSCH Chairs and staff met with Community Homelessness Tables on April 29th to begin consultations on this portfolio and will be following up as part of the RSCH Strategic Planning initiatives.

Partnership Strengthening Initiatives   Many members participated in the Business Leadership Roundtable in October 2010. The RSCH will be continuing to implement the actions under the RSCH Business Partnership Strategy, seeking to strengthen partnerships with businesses on homelessness initiatives. The RSCH will also be focusing its attention on strengthening its partnership with the Aboriginal community. Current initiatives include enhancing the cultural competency of RSCH leaders and key staff in terms of understanding First Nations history and working together with the AHSC on aligning HPS Community Plan priorities.

Regional Homelessness Plan: Three Ways to Home   As mentioned above, the Community Plan process will lead into the update of the Regional Homelessness Plan:Three Ways to Home. The plan was last updated in 2003.

The Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness (RSCH) recommends funding for projects serving people who are homeless every year through the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). The next Call for Proposals is planned for Fall 2011 upon completion of the 2011–2014 HPS Community Plan.

Since the last RSCH bulletin, there have been three funding updates.

2010/2011 HPS End of Year Distribution   Nearing the end of the fiscal year, the RSCH was made aware of unallocated HPS funds from the 2010/2011 year. As there were time limitations for expenditures (all funds had to be approved by the Minister and spent by March 31, 2011), only capital projects currently under HPS contract were invited to submit applications for upward amendments. These upward amendments could not exceed 25% of the total project budget.  The RSCH Finance Working Group met to review applications and make recommendations forward. A total of 9 existing HPS funded capital projects received upward amendments based on the ability to spend the money by March 31, alignment with HPS Community Plan priorities, and geographic distribution of funded projects.

2011-2014 HPS Program Extension   In November 2010, the Government of Canada confirmed that the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) will continue for the next three years (April 1, 2011- March 31, 2014). The level of funding remains the same at $24.6 million for the Metro Vancouver area during the three-year period. The main framework for the program remains similar: theRSCHstream is covered under the Designated Community stream and our sister committee, the Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee (AHSC), is covered under the Aboriginal funding stream.

All communities across the country have been asked to consider moving toward a community entity model.

2011/2012 Service Project Extensions   Service projects receiving HPS funding since 2007 had agreements due to expire March 31, 2011. In order to prevent service disruption to clients, the RSCH reviewed all 35 service project re-applications and recommended one-year extensions. Budget increases to accommodate program changes or to acquire small equipment were not considered due to the need to re-establish priorities through the Community Plan update. The total funding recommended was $4.9 million (approximately $200,000 over the previous year’s funding).

With the renewal of the service projects for next year, the region has approximately $19.68 million to allocate over the next three years.  A Call for Proposals for projects is planned for Fall 2011 upon completion of the 2011–2014 HPS Community Plan.

Welcome to Our Living Room

Posted: May 10, 2011 in Information

For the last ten years, the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness (RSCH) has been responding to homelessness in Metro Vancouver. As the issues become more complex, community and government stakeholders are seeking robust and creative strategies to eliminate homelessness.

The launch of the RSCH blog is intended to be a place of information collection and exchange, a virtual ‘living room’ to link ideas and actions to address homelessness. In addition to publishing updates, we will also be commissioning guest submissions.

Please feel free to contact us at: rsch@metrovancouver.org to inquire further.