Canada’s Federal Government Commits To Ending Homelessness

a motel facade without much sign of life
Motel Front photo by Mario Klingemann is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Empty motels and hotel rooms have been lifesavers for the homeless in the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian government looks to turn this temporary housing solution into a permanent one.

Canada’s most recent Speech From the Throne states, “the Government is now focused on entirely eliminating chronic homelessness in Canada.”

Governments in many countries acted during the early phases of COVID-19 to provide accommodation for people who were experiencing homelessness, leading to hopes that the temporary programs would continue. Until now, national governments have steered clear of this commitment. What lies behind Canada’s decision to act?

The Canadian Alliance To End Homelessness (CAEH) must surely be one of the driving forces. The CAEH campaign is centred on two documents, “Recovery For All,” and Proposals to Strengthen the National Housing Strategy and End Homelessness.”  The first is a six point program of actions needed to end homelessness. The program is based on evidence built up through collaborative efforts across the country. The second, as the title suggests, contains proposals to add to Canada’s National Housing Strategy, providing cost estimates for the measures needed to help people move from homelessness and to prevent homelessness going forward.

To make these texts come alive, CAEH representatives have been working through formal and informal channels to share its ideas and ask others to support their efforts. Formally, it contributed to parliamentary committees shaping Canada’s COVID recovery strategy and the 2021 Pre-budget hearings. Informally, CAEH has produced several short videos. Each one puts a human face on homelessness in a different way. The videos are posted on CAEH’s facebook page.

To monitor the success of their campaign, CAEH invited organizations to endorse the “Recovery For All” program. It also commissioned an opinion poll to gauge the level of support in the general public, which subsequently translated to coverage in the conventional media. There was widespread support for some aspects of the program, particularly creating more housing units as part of an economic recovery strategy. You can see the full results here.

Further evidence came two days before the Throne Speech, when Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister for Social Development, announced $1B (CDN) to create new homes for people who are homeless. The funding is to acquire existing hotel and motel units, which will bring housing on line quickly, and relieve some of the financial stress for businesses affected by COVID-19. The media coverage of the announcement included comments from CAEH’s president, Tim Richter. Read more at the CBC: Liberals pledge $1 billion for cities to buy motels, hotels for rapid-housing program

As Tim says: “It’s not over, but it’s a step in the right direction.”