May 13, 2004

Study indicates homelessness efforts in York Region need to focus on prevention


NEWMARKET – The results of a homelessness evaluation study released at York Region’s Community Services and Housing Committee yesterday concluded that there is an increasing need in York Region to focus on preventing our most vulnerable residents from becoming homeless.  

 

Preventing Homelessness in York Region:  Taking the Next Steps states that although absolute homelessness is not highly visible in the Region as it is in more urban centres such as Toronto, prevention is the key to avoiding a homelessness crisis in the future.

 

“As the Region develops its long-term growth management plans, it will be important to fund and include strategic planning for programs and services that keep at-risk residents from becoming homeless,” said Regional Chair and CEO Bill Fisch. “This will help all York Region residents to continue to enjoy a high quality of life and it makes good economic sense.”

 

The study indicates that while crisis supports are critical, there is increasing pressure on those at risk, who may be only one event away from starting the spiral that can lead to homelessness.  Because of low incomes, insecure employment, lack of affordable housing, domestic violence, a mental health or addiction problem or lack of social support, a number of households are in unstable housing situations. 

 

“York Region is prosperous but has a significant number of people at risk of becoming homeless,” said Newmarket Mayor Tom Taylor, Chair of the Region’s Community Services and Housing Committee.  “York Region is currently in a strong position to avoid a homelessness crisis that has beset other communities which have grown and rapidly urbanized.”

 

Preventing Homelessness in York Region was completed using a combination of interviews of 17 focus groups and over 200 people, evaluations of homeless initiatives and research.  It proposes a range of strategies to address current issues and to mitigate future homelessness and risk of homelessness in York Region.  These include:

 

·         Employment initiatives designed to address the root cause of homelessness: poverty. While many of the policies that affect income (e.g., minimum wage, social assistance rates, and training programs for foreign trained professionals) are beyond the scope of regional government, York Region can advocate with other levels of government.

 

·         Shelter and housing initiatives designed to increase the supply of stable affordable housing.

 

·         Community supports and services designed to help people at risk of homelessness address underlying health and social needs.

 

·         Transportation initiatives designed to overcome geographic barriers that people may face in York Region.

 

·         Health services that meet the needs of these particular Region’s residents who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

 

·         Strategies designed to meet the needs of our particular immigrant communities.

 

·         Public education designed to solicit broad public support for efforts that prevent homelessness.

 

·         Strategies designed to strengthen the general service system.

 

Pending Regional Council approval on May 20th, staff will develop an Action Plan that assesses the feasibility of these recommendations, as well as proposes implementation strategies.  

 

Staff will also take advantage of the opportunity posed by York Region’s Growth Management Strategy by incorporating the Action Plan into the work of the Growth Management Committee. This will allow the Region to apply a “prevention lens” that looks for opportunities to support vulnerable residents across all Regional initiatives.  The draft Action Plan is expected to go before Regional Council in the fall.

 

Copies of Preventing Homelessness in York Region:  Taking the Next Steps will be distributed to the community by early June and will be available on the York Region Web site at www.region.york.on.ca

 

See attached Backgrounder and Fact Sheet on Homelessness in York Region.

 

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Contact:            Wendy Lewis, Corporate Communications Services, York Region

- (905) 830-4444 or (416) 297-9696, ext. 1238

- Email: wendy.lewis@region.york.on.ca


The Regional Municipality of York is committed to providing cost-effective, quality services that respond to the needs of our rapidly growing communities.  York Region is comprised of the following nine area municipalities:  Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Whitchurch-Stouffville.  For more information, visit our Web site at:  www.region.york.on.ca

Contact: Patrick Casey, Senior Media Relations Specialist, York Region

 
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