Toronto’s Streets to Homes among the world’s best housing programs |
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The City of Toronto’s Streets to Homes program is one of the finalists for the 2007/08 World Habitat Awards, making it one of the world’s finest examples of housing projects that deliver practical and innovative ways to house people. Two winners will be chosen from the 12 finalists at the annual United Nations global celebration of World Habitat Day, October 6, 2008.
“Streets to Homes is helping us to end street homelessness,” said Mayor David Miller. “It is making Toronto a more inclusive city, and the world is taking notice. This recognition is a tribute to both City staff and our community partners, who have worked together tirelessly and seamlessly to help some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Approved by City Council in February 2005, Streets to Homes has since helped more than 1,500 homeless people find housing directly from the streets, parks and ravines in the city. Almost 90 per cent remain housed. The program is operated by City staff in partnership with 25 community not-for-profit agencies that provide street outreach, housing support, and related services.
“Streets to Homes is the front line of our overall “housing first” approach,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21 St. Paul’s), Chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee. “Homeless people tell us they want permanent homes, and we are focusing our limited resources across all services for homeless people on helping them to find and keep permanent housing. You have the best chance of dealing with your problems when you have the safety and dignity of a place to call home. Housing is the very best medicine.”
“Innovation and collaboration have been the hallmarks of this program right from the beginning,” said Phil Brown, General Manager, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration. The City division operates Streets to Homes as well as Toronto’s social housing portfolio, the emergency shelter system, and related services for homeless and vulnerable people. “We no longer ask clients ‘how can we help you?’ We ask: ‘how can we help you get into housing?’
“The research shows this program is making people healthier, happier, and more optimistic about the future. We are also seeing overall advantages since clients who are housed are making less use of costly services such as emergency room visits and jail. This program is about getting results with the resources at hand, a model that we think can be replicated in other parts of the world.”
Focusing on the needs of clients fosters collaboration across City divisions, other orders of government, and among not-for-profit community service and health care organizations, said Brown. “We have benefited greatly from the guidance of our Street Outreach Steering Committee, which brings together people from the worlds of health care, psychiatry, business, social service agencies and government.”
The other finalists for the World Habitat Awards are projects from: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, the Netherlands, Norway, Sri Lanka, United States and Vietnam.
Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won more than 70 awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.
For more information on Streets to Homes, see www.toronto.ca/housing/about-streets-homes.htm. For information on the World Habitat Awards, www.worldhabitatawards.org.
Patricia Anderson, Manager Partnership Development, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, 416-397-4328, email@example.com
Backgrounder - Streets to Homes at a glance
Streets to Homes is a City of Toronto program based on partnerships among community not-for-profit agencies and private-sector landlords that assists homeless people living outdoors to find permanent housing, and provides the supports they require to remain in their new homes and connect to local services.
To end street homelessness
City of Toronto
Project developer and manager
Shelter Support and Housing Administration Division, City of Toronto
Absolutely homeless people living on the streets, in parks and ravines, under bridges, in squats and vehicles
Many have some form of mental illness, substance use issues, serious health problems, or some combination of these; homeless, on average, for six years; 81% male; average age is 37; 26% are Aboriginal (vs 0.5% of Torontos population)
Number of people housed to end 2007
1,500, with almost 90% remaining housed
Criteria for success
- Client focus and a culture of doing whatever it takes to provide service; no blind referrals to other agencies
- Clients choose their own housing
- Scattered site model of follow-up support to help clients adjust to living indoors and to maintain their new housing
- Ongoing development of new and innovative programs to address identified gaps in services
- Partnerships with a range of private and non-profit organizations