November 2012 MLA Report

Imagine a city where nobody is homeless.

For the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness Society, it’s not a dream. It is a mission to end homelessness by 2018. And it’s a vision of a place where all people facing homelessness have access to safe, affordable, appropriate, permanent housing, and the support services they need.

The Coalition is one of the tremendous organizations in our community working diligently to address this serious issue. All across Canada, homelessness has increased with changes in the supply and availability of low-cost and affordable housing.

Greater Victoria has one of the greatest gaps between average income and housing costs of anywhere in Canada. Although vacancy rates across the region have increased, so have rents, meaning that many people still cannot afford current market rental rates.

The Coalition knows that the solutions to end homelessness are diverse, and we all have a role to play. That means all levels of government, community agencies, businesses, the faith community, post-secondary schools and private citizens working together to identify and implement solutions.

By building partnerships, the Coalition is making a difference. For instance, eight organizations have come together in its Streets to Homes initiative that has moved more than 100 people directly from cyclical homelessness to private market housing. The Coalition and 10 partners have joined together in the Homelessness Prevention Fund (HPF) to provide emergency assistance to individuals and families in financial threat of losing their housing.

These approaches not only help those in need and address a crisis in our community; they also make a lot of sense. After all, it’s much cheaper to provide a homeless person with a place to live than to deliver a patchwork of emergency services. That’s one of the conclusions of a new study by the Canadian Homelessness Research Network, which looked at data from across Canada and the United States.

The research revealed that governments spend more than $4.5 billion a year on emergency health care, mental health services, law enforcement, shelters and food banks for homeless people. Providing adequate support and housing to homeless people can save taxpayers more than 50 cents on the dollar over the current approach.

Yet governments have been slow to recognize the benefits, and implement policies to encourage more affordable housing and help ensure individuals and families make a wage they can live on. Our community needs resources for subsidized housing, rent supplements, and programs to assist groups at particular risk including First Nations and youth.

While decision-makers have been dragging their feet, community leaders have stepped up to make a difference. I recently met with four members of KPMG’s Victoria team who are committed to giving back.

KPMG shows exceptional commitment by supporting its employees in their community endeavours. Gordon Gunn is treasurer of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness; Sang-Kiet Ly is treasurer of Pacifica Housing; Robert Ashwin is treasurer of Habitat for Humanity; and Scot Hooker is treasurer for Our Place.

Their respective housing-focused organizations are working hard to make safe and affordable housing a priority issue in our community. It’s vital that the province and the federal governments join with these amazing partnerships to build on the progress made so far. That’s the surest way we can all reach towards a Victoria in 2018 where nobody is homeless.