The Hope and Area Transition Society (a non-profit agency, governed by a volunteer board of directors) would like to provide perspective to the Housing First Research that is being conducted in the community.
In the fall of 2008, BC Housing provided funding for a Homeless Outreach Program. This program is client-centered, and is grounded in the context of each local community.
The program connects people who are at-risk and homeless to housing, income assistance, and community-based support services. Outreach workers undertake a wide range of support activities:
• Address immediate physical and safety needs, such as food, warm clothing and a place to stay;
• Connect people with housing and income support, including making and accompanying them to appointments;
• Provide links to other support services, such as life skills training, personal health, household and financial management;
• In some cases, act as a landlord liaison.
As this program evolved in the first year, it became clear that many of the individual’s that were housed, were not able to maintain their housing for a variety of reasons. Several of the clients that were housed by our agency were housed at the Thunderbird Motel and the owner of the Thunderbird was already renting to this population group.
An informal arrangement was made to pilot housing this client group solely at the Thunderbird and providing some level of support system for them to maintain housing and self. As this initiative moved forward through this organic approach, other service providers began engaging this population group right at the motel; such as the nurse practitioner, addiction services, library, literacy, public health and legal aid. The project gained attention from BC Housing and in 2011 they urged the Society to look at the option of purchasing the motel. The board hired Terra Housing Consultants to conduct a Feasibility Study and Business Plan which they presented to the board and to BC Housing. During this time a Building Condition Report and a Commercial Appraisal were also conducted. The board decided to approach the owner of the property and see if we could negotiate a sale price. The owner and the board were too far apart on price and BC Housing felt that the price the owner wanted was unreasonable.
In early 2014, the board was again urged from BC Housing to either start re-negotiations with the owner of the Thunderbird or consider looking at other options for ownership of a housing project. We instructed the executive director to begin looking into other options. A grant was secured through the Homeless Partnering Strategy to do research on community readiness for a Housing First Model. This is what Jennifer Hawkins is currently doing and will provide the board with a final report in March.
It is the intent of the board of directors to ensure community input. There is no secret master plan, and we have not purchased a building. It is our agency’s mission to provide programs and services to individuals and families who are affected by social issues. Social issues come in many forms and are systemic to society at-large. There is not enough human or financial capital to end all forms of social ills, however it is our job to ensure that the marginalized, oppressed and vulnerable are offered services to help enhance their quality of life and in turn reduce the strain on local resources. Working with the community and our stakeholder groups is foundational.
The agency will be hosting a final information session on Housing First Feb. 19 from 7-9 p.m. at the rec centre conference room.
For more information on the work that the Hope and Area Transition Society does visit our website at www.hopetransition.org or contact the office (604-869-5111) and meet with executive director Gerry Dyble.
Reid Nickerson and the board of directors