When it comes to the homeless one program in Toronto appears to be working. Streets to Homes is an award winning program started in Toronto. Since it being in early 2005 more than 2,400 homeless people have found permanent housing.
Clients are saying that having a home of their own has changed their lives. They also say that they are using less alcohol and drugs now that they are off the streets. What is most amazing almost 91 per cent of those who have been placed in housing remain in housing. The program has a zero waiting list allowing them to help people quickly leave the street and enter into a home of their own according to Pat Anderson of the Toronto City housing department.
Research has shown that the those who are in the Streets to Homes Program are less likely to use costly emergency services in Toronto. Not only does this benefit the city but the cost impact is shared by the Province and the Federal government.
Housing officials are able to take the success of the program and leverage it with the provisional government for more funding.
The idea of the program is to bypass shelters or transitional housing and put the homeless straight into their own apartment. So far 2,400 have been placed in a home of their own according to Pat Anderson.
Not only does the program help the homeless have a place to sleep their health, mental health, food quality, sleeping, personal safety and social interaction has improved in the majority of cases.
An important component of the enhanced service is a single phone number for the public for those who are street involved in the downtown core. The staff is then able to direct the person to the right social service approach that is needed.
The program is operated by City staff with partnerships with 25 community non-for-profit agencies. The program was one of the finalists for the 2007/08 World Habitat Awards.
“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.”
The model of Streets to Homes in use today is enhanced built from the 2007 Pilot Project. During the first 12 weeks of the 63 per cent of those who were panhandling stopped this practice.
The staff of Streets to Homes are down in the trenches. They engage with as many homeless people as they can. Not every homeless person is visible, some live in the ravines that most don’t venture into. The program helps not just the homeless but anyone who is ‘street involved.’ That includes people residing in shelters, homeless and those who have legal housing but panhandle.
“We are not telling people not to give or to give when it comes to panhandlers. What the city does believe in is directing people to social service response programs.”- Pat Anderson
The front-line workers work 24 hours a day in the winter and the summer with outreach programs. They have a mobile service that hits every part of Toronto. The program is in operation from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. seven days a week during the fall and spring. There are currently 39 front-line City staff in the program, up from the 10 staff at the beginning of the program.
A recent study by the Ontario Association of Food Banks also found that the cost of
poverty in Ontario related to increased health care costs, crime and lost productivity was
$32 billion to $38 billion a year – the equivalent of 5.5 per cent to 6.6 per cent of
Once a person is in housing the average daily follow-up costs the city of Toronto a mere $10 combined with their housing costs total an average between $22 to $41 per day.
Those who wish to help can volunteer for the program. Ms. Anderson said that one program has volunteers going to apartment buildings that have several clients in them and setting up bingo nights and spaghetti dinners.