No funding for Homes for the Homeless
By Stephanie Froese
Homes for the Homeless is on its last legs.
The program helps people with housing issues by identifying the root cause for their homelessness and educating their clients on the rights and responsibilities of being a good tenant.
A joint effort between the North Saskatchewan River Metis Local #269 and Jubilation Residential Centres Inc. started Homes for the Homeless with funding from the Homelessness Partnering Strategy from the federal government.
At the time of the funding Homes for the Homeless was just a pilot program that had an end date of March, 2011.
John Fryters, with Jubilation Residential Centres, said the program has quickly ballooned.
He said instead of about 25 client referrals over 10 months they are now seeing an average of 25 referrals in a single month.
“A co-ordinator was hired, community mentors were trained and right from the start it was obvious that we had a winner on our hands,” he said
The problem came when the need for permanent funding became evident. Fryters said they have been constantly searching for funding with no avail.
As it stands, program director Janice Henry said they have at the most two months, surviving on internal funding from the North Saskatchewan River Metis Local #269.
“Clients have come in the door saying I talked to my social worker and they told me that you could help me find a home,” said Henry.
She said even though they are just verbal referrals it shows what kind of need there is for this program.
Both Henry and Fryters said that it is particular alarming since any hopes of funding through social services were denied in a letter the receive last week.
“In this case the Homes for the Homeless program … (it) is more about assisting people to find houses and also maintain their housing. The ministry with income assistance, our mandate is to assist people with the means to rent the house and pay their utilities and buy food and those type of things, but it’s something that’s outside of our mandate,” said Alan Jones, director of income assistance for the north service area with the Ministry of Social services.
Jones said applying to the ministry of social services was not the wrong channel for the program, but “as it sits right now Social Services doesn’t have a mandate to fund these types of programs so I don’t know where to suggest they go elsewhere.”
In the letter that notified the Homes for the Homeless program that they would not be funded though social services Jones indicated that he would be willing to meet with the group to discuss the next steps.
“I think all parties involved would say the group has done some good work. I’ve had some opportunity to meet with them in the past and I think everyone would recognize that they’ve worked hard at this agenda and I think the citizens of Prince Albert are fortunate for their efforts,” he said.
“At this time asking social services to fund it, it’s outside what we would normally do to approach this issue.”
As to where they go next, Jones said they need to get people around a table and consider options.
Darcy Furber, MLA for Prince Albert Northcote has talked, and is talking, with representatives from the Homes for the Homeless program over the shortfall in funding.
“Certainly the program has tremendous value to our city and should be funded,” Furber said.
He said the denial of funding through social services was a ridiculous answer.
“It has no merit whatsoever because you have a program here that is incredibly successful and the liaison between the community and the housing that exists in Prince Albert,” said Furber.
“There isn’t another program in Prince Albert that has the success rate in placing people in housing that this one has.”
Calling it an “unfortunate irony,” Furber said many clients in the Homes for the Homeless program come from social services, a provincial government program that has declined funding the homeless program.
“I have lobbied the Provincial Government and the minister responsible in the past to provide more funding for this program.”
“In this case hopefully we can put enough pressure on the government, they can put enough pressure on the government.”
Besides the worry of where their clients will go if they are forced to shut down the program, both Henry and Fryters agree that their obvious success in helping their clients hasn’t been seen in any other program like this in Prince Albert.
The group has been trying to gain supports from all levels of government and are continuing to explore other avenues of funding.
Henry said it doesn’t make senses why it seems their cry for help has fallen on deaf ears.
She said the program has successfully helped 70 per cent of its clientele numbers both her and Fryters would challenge other similar programs to produce.
She said she really doesn’t know where their clients will go if they close since there are no other programs that do what they do in the city.
Linda Boyer, Manager of the Prince Albert Community Housing Society said they work with the Homes for the Homeless program and it would be a shame to see the program disappear.
Darryl Hickie has been unavailable to comment.
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