LETTER: Housing First is alternative to emegency/transitional shelter

Demonstrated effectiveness in achieving significant reductions in homelessness

“Fraser Valley Inn, Station Pub, Duke of Dublin Irish Pub, Liquor Depot, drug dealers…”

“And your point is?”

“They are all around the location where Abbotsford Community Services want to build the 20 units of first stage housing.”

“And your point is?”

“The existence of sources of alcohol and drugs means you cannot build the proposed first stage housing behind ACS.”

“Wrong. Easy access to alcohol and drugs is needed in order for first stage housing to accomplish its purpose.”

Housing First  is an alternative to a system of emergency shelter/transitional housing progressions. Rather than moving homeless individuals through different “levels” of housing, known as the continuum of care, whereby each level moves them closer to “independent housing” (for example: from the streets to a public shelter, and from a public shelter to treatment (if needed), to a transitional housing program, and from there to their own apartment in the community) Housing First moves the homeless from the streets or homeless shelters directly into their own housing.

This approach is based on the concept that the first and primary need of the homeless is to obtain stable housing, and that other issues that may affect the homeless can and should be addressed once housing is obtained.

Housing First is endorsed as a “best practice” for governments and service-agencies to use in their fight to end chronic homelessness. Consequently Housing First is used in many Canadian ten year plans to end homelessness.

Housing First is used in those Canadian plans, and in Europe, because of the effectiveness demonstrated in achieving significant reductions in homelessness across the United States where Housing First was developed by Pathways to Housing, Inc., of New York City for which they won the 2005 American Psychiatric Association Gold Achievement Award in the category of community-based programs.

The most important thing to remember in addressing homelessness, substance use, mental illness et al is that it is about/involves human beings.

Which means messy, aggravating, infuriating, ass backwards, counter intuitive, no nice neat easy solution, no ‘solution’, many solutions  – as many solutions as individuals, unpredictability and so on…….’a dog’s breakfast’.

Housing First has demonstrated that contrary (humans involved = contrary content) to logical expectations, housing people under housing first principles does not simply enable them to continue their behaviour but results in them making positive decisions and seeking help in taking back control of their lives faster than they otherwise would have.

The question is not whether council should rezone the site Abbotsford Community Services will use for first stage housing but why council has not already rezoned the property?

Raising the troubling question: whether the citing of the easy access to alcohol and drugs is a result of a Machiavellian attempt to hoodwink citizens into (wrongly, falsely) opposing the downtown location (commission) or is a result of ignorance and closed minds (omission).

James Breckenridge


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