Change can be a difficult process. London is currently in a transition with our homelessness programs to move more resources from managing people while they are homeless, to prevention or rapid re-housing with supports. This is difficult as it means the typical modes are altered, impacting funding, employment, and processes within the sector. For example, part of the vision is to reduce the utilization of emergency shelters by providing people more permanent housing alternatives. This has direct implications for the wonderful organizations who have been providing emergency shelter for years.
This recent report out of Lethbridge Alberta demonstrates that this move from management to prevention and re-housing can work. This is positive news in a field where we are often just looking to slow worsening trends. Reductions in support from federal and provincial levels mean that municipal plans can only achieve so much. However, have a look at Lethbridge’s numbers below:
By moving people into housing, they have greatly decreased emergency shelter use. This, along with increased outreach support, has decreased rough sleeping to almost nil. Extrapolating the curve suggests that by the end of their next 5 year plan, homelessness in Lethbridge will be minimal, hopefully only representing a transition phase as people move into housing.
Now, it’s not all positive. 623 individuals and families continue to wait on the Lethbridge list for affordable housing. However, even this large wait list is not translating directly into people stuck in shelter (see chart on page 41). What we in London can learn though is doing this hard work to reorient the system has been shown to have positive results.