This is a guest post by Jennifer van Gennip, Redwood’s Director of Communications and our representative at the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness (SCATEH).
As we get closer and closer to opening the doors on our motel conversion, a project in partnership with the David Busby Centre, some of our support community may be wondering what a “Housing First” community is all about, and how a person might qualify to live at Lucy’s Place.   

Housing First

Simply put, Housing First is the current best practice approach to ending homelessness. According to the document Housing First in Canada: Supporting Communities to End Homelessness“Housing is not contingent upon readiness, or on ‘compliance’ (for instance, sobriety). ​Rather, it is a rights-based intervention rooted in the philosophy that all people deserve housing, and that adequate housing is a precondition for recovery.” ​Housing First is also one of our values here at Redwood.

Housing First in Simcoe County

In Simcoe County, a Regional Housing First Program was introduced in November 2018. Since then, just over 100 people have been housed through this initiative. That means that the person receives assistance securing permanent housing, a significant rent supplement so they can afford their housing, and they have a case manager who helps them stay successfully housed, whatever that looks like for the individual. Sometimes that means assistance with accessing various funding or services, offering life skills training, or helping resolve conflicts with landlords or neighbours.

Housing First at Lucy’s Place

The Regional Housing First priority placement process will be used to determine who is offered a spot at Lucy’s Place. This is a process that takes into consideration each individual’s SPDAT score (that’s the standardized assessment tool used in Simcoe County to determine a person’s acuity, or level of need), as well as some less tangible factors that aren’t measured in the SPDAT.  Lucy’s Place will have Housing First case managers from the Busby Centre on site 24/7.  There will also be a support team from Redwood involved, helping to foster the supportive community that is a signature piece of every project we are involved in – facilitating coffee drop ins, connecting new faces to the group, helping out with getting to appointments, or simply being a listening ear. 

Why So Much Housing Support?

 The data shows us that more and more people are experiencing multiple barriers to staying housed: affordability issues coupled with mental health, addictions, and other health issues layered on mean that without supports in place, sometimes housing by itself is not enough.  Lucy’s Place will be set up to help ensure Barrie’s hardest-to-house residents have a safe, affordable, adequate place to call home.

Homelessness Enumeration Data

In 2018, Simcoe County completed a Homelessness Enumeration, for the purpose of counting and understanding the people who are experiencing homelessness in Simcoe County, and identifying those who wish to be included on a prioritized list for housing and outreach services.  From this enumeration we learned that:
  • At least 305 people are experiencing homelessness in Barrie.
  • 148 of those people met the definition of chronic homelessness – homeless for at least 180 days out of the last year.
  • 17% were noted to be experiencing tri-morbidity, which is when an individual is experiencing physical health, mental health, and substance use issues.
  • People experiencing homelessness use our emergency services at an alarming rate: a self-reported average of 21.7 services per person in the last 6 months.
This data on homelessness helps us understand the needs of the people we are trying to house, so that we can be better equipped to help them. It also helps us understand why investing in housing and supports is not only good for the individuals experiencing homelessness, it actually results in overall savings for society. If you are interested in reading the full enumeration report, you can find it here Redwood is a proud and active member of the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness (SCATEH), the coalition at the forefront of this work in Simcoe County. You can learn more about SCATEH here. Interested in helping get Lucy’s Place open? You can make a donation here, and watch for a call for volunteers coming very soon!