Ask the Hub - How can Housing First work in rural communities?

Université York
Juillet 04, 2014
Catégories: Ask the Hub

During the webinar launch of the report “A Safe and Decent Place to Live: Towards a Housing First Framework for Youth” Loren Roberts asked:  “In rural communities, where continued care might not be available, how does Housing First fit with private sector housing as the only option?”

This blog is adapted from the reply that Dr. Stephen Gaetz gave at the time.

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In thinking about the relevance of the Housing First model in rural and small town contexts, there are several things that need to be considered. First, Housing First is no doubt a particular intervention to address homelessness and is defined by core principles, there is a recognition that it can be, and needs to be adapted to different contexts, absolutely. One of the key things about the At Home/Chez Soi project, and the experience with Housing First elsewhere in Canada, is that it can work in different communities from large centres such as Toronto, to smaller places as well. Our book on Housing First in Canada also highlights how the model has been adapted and implemented in very different kinds of communities. So in terms of figuring out how to move forward, I would say identify and locate people who are doing those interesting things, and find out from them how it works. Find out what the best practices are in other agencies, communities or countries, understand implementation challenges, and figure out how to adapt them to your clientele/situation.

As part of the At Home/Chez Soi project, Moncton was a key site. Not only is this a small city, but it should be noted that as part of their work, they did Housing First in rural areas. Smaller places face particular challenges, for instance, in putting together ACT teams or ensuring people have access to necessary supports for complex needs. Nevertheless, people are figuring it out. Smaller places also have advantages, in that the network of people you need to know is much tighter, and one can often ‘get things done’ more quickly than in large centres where things can become very complicated. In Alberta, in places like Grand Prairie and Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, they’ve had incredible success in doing Housing First and they too lack the extended continuum of care. Smaller communities need to come up with ways of providing the supports needed. This is where integrated services and systems can really help. At Home/Chez Soi said “Implementing a Housing First approach to small-city and rural homelessness required extensive collaboration with government departments, regional health authorities, non-governmental organizations and community partners. These partnerships were essential to connecting At Home/Chez Soi staff to the expertise necessary to navigate the complex and interconnected mental health, housing and social services systems.”

The lack of appropriate and affordable rental housing piece is a key thing that can be a real challenge in small town/rural areas. There may be other options that one has to explore and that’s going to require the ingenuity and innovation on the local level. It may mean going the route of host homes for a while until people can find their own housing. The host home model is established in the UK and in the United States in certain communities. And in Canada there are at least two places where it’s being done; I believe in Victoria and also the Halton region in Ontario. So that means getting people in the community who have extra rooms, might be parents whose children have moved out, to make available a room for somebody to move into.

Housing First is also going to require creativity on the part of the people developing it. Private-sector scattered-site housing, whether urban or rural, is not the only option. Transitional housing might be needed, or supportive housing; these may be scattered-site or congregate living. People using the services, especially young people, need to have a say in what works and that’s going to involve some negotiation.

One final point on the rural question that I think it’s really, really important to figure out is the issue of helping to keep young people in place, which should really be a priority. Unless it is unsafe for a young person to remain in their community, we should do whatever we can to keep them there. Young people are usually surrounded by ‘natural supports’ such as friends, family, maybe extended family, teachers, other adults, employers etc. That is, they’re involved in a web of relationships and when they are forced to leave their community to move to a city because they have no options, the troubles can intensify, as young people are vulnerable to criminal and sexual exploitation, and will have weak supports. Prevention and working to keep youth in their family home (when safe), OR to help them move into more independent living in a safe and planned way is incredibly important. We explored many issues related to youth homelessness in our Coming of Age report.

We’ve got to figure it out. We do need more research about this. Rural homelessness and rural Housing First are areas that we definitely need to understand more about. We look forward to a report being released July 9th by Jeannette Wagemakers-Schiff and Alina Turner "Housing First in Rural Canada: Rural Homelessness and Housing First Feasibility across 22 Canadian Communities” that explores these issues in greater depth. 

Join us for a tweet chat on rural homelessness with Jeannette Wagemakers-Schiff and Alina Turner on Tuesday, July 8th at 12:00 PM (ET) by using the #HHChat hashtag. You can also participate in our webinar for the July 9th launch of the report at 1:00 PM (ET). Click here to register.

Photograph by Kris Krug.

Stephen Gaetz est un professeur à la Faculté d'éducation de l'Université York et est le directeur de l'Observatoire canadien sur l'itinérance et du Rond-point de l'itinérance. Il est dorénavant également le président de Chez Toit, une oeuvre de bienfaisance canadienne en tête de file qui se concentre sur les solutions à long terme à l'itinérance.

Le docteur Gaetz se consacre à un programme de recherche qui met en lumière la justice sociale et tente de rendre la recherche sur l'itinérance utile pour les prises de décisions politiques et l'élaboration des programmes. Ses recherches sur l'itinérance chez les jeunes sont axées sur les stratégies économiques, la santé, l'éducation et les questions légales et juridiques, et plus récemment, il a porté son attention sur les politiques et en particulier sur la réponse canadienne à l'itinérance. Il a dernièrement publié deux oeuvres sur l'itinérance au Canada, dont : L'approche Logement d'abord au Canada – Appuyer les collectivités pour mettre fin à l'itinérance (2013) et Youth Homelessness in Canada: Implications for policy and practice (2013). De plus, il a publié un livre sur les réponses communautaires aux problèmes touchant les jeunes en Irlande et écrit une multitude de rapports et d'articles publiés dans une grande variété de revues approuvées par des pairs. Le docteur Gaetz a également été doyen associé de la Recherche et développement professionnel de la Faculté d'éducation. Avant de se joindre à l'Université York, le docteur Gaetz a travaillé dans le secteur de la santé communautaire à Shout clinic (une clinique de santé pour les jeunes de la rue de Toronto) et Queen West Community Health Centre à Toronto.

Le docteur Gaetz a joué un rôle de leader international dans la diffusion des connaissances dans le domaine de l'itinérance. York a accueilli la Conférence canadienne sur l'itinérance en 2005 – la première conférence de recherche en son genre au Canada. En outre, l'Université York accueille dorénavant l'Observatoire canadien sur l'itinérance et le Rond-point de l'itinérance, le premier centre de recherche complet et interdisciplinaire basé sur le web au monde. L'objet principal de ce réseau est de travailler de pair avec les chercheurs partout au Canada afin de mobiliser les recherches de telle sorte qu'elles aient un plus grand impact sur les politiques et la planification relatives à l'itinérance. Par l'entremise du RCRI, le docteur Gaetz publie des recherches pertinentes pour les prises de décisions politiques, y compris deux rapports récents sur l'itinérance chez les jeunes : Un endroit sûr et décent où vivre – Vers un cadre Logement d'abord pour les jeunes (2012), et Une ère nouvelle – Repenser les interventions auprès des jeunes sans-abri du Canada (2014); la Définition canadienne de l'itinérance (2012); Le coût réel de l'itinérance – Peut-on économiser de l'argent en faisant les bons choix? (2012); Vos papiers s'il-vous-plaît – Le contrôle policier des jeunes de la rue à Toronto (2011); et L'importance de la famille – Les jeunes sans-abri et le programme Family Reconnect de Eva's Initiatives (2011).

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Les analyses et interprétations publiées dans le blogue sont celles des contributeurs individuels et ne représentent pas nécessairement les opinions de l'Observatoire canadien sur l'itinérance.