Kate Mechan speaks during a conference in Whitehorse on June 26, 2018. Mechan, executive director of Safe at Home, said it’s her hope the program will see more vulnerable people in the community housed than previously. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Kate Mechan speaks during a conference in Whitehorse on June 26, 2018. Mechan, executive director of Safe at Home, said it’s her hope the program will see more vulnerable people in the community housed than previously. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

100 Homes project launches

Will work with landlords, potential tenants

With a goal of securing homes for 100 members of the community by March 31, 2021, Safe at Home and its partners have officially launched its 100 Homes Campaign.

It was officially launched Dec. 17 and will see a pool of rental units established for prospective tenants who can’t find affordable housing, are living in short-term housing or temporary accommodations.

A coordinated access system will be used to match tenants to landlords that are part of the pool. Prospective tenants would then be supported through the process in asking questions, attending unit viewings, learning about their responsibilities and rights and asking for supports they need to feel successful.

Landlords involved in the program will have the final say in who rents their units.

There are also benefits for landlords in that there will be guaranteed rent payments and supports for tenants.

The program works with landlords to fill vacancies and find long-term tenants that are matched to the units.

“Being solution-focused is at the heart of the 100 Homes campaign and we’re just so excited to facilitate a tangible way for landlords to contribute to ending homelessness,” said Kate Mechan, executive director at Safe at Home. “We want to show that landlords’ needs can be met and upheld, while we work to support some of our community’s most vulnerable citizens.”

In a Dec. 22 interview, Mechan said a landlord engagement officer has been hired to work directly with landlords as part of the program.

A meeting has already been held with the territory’s landlords association, but Mechan said the “rubber will hit the road in January” on the project.

Mechan said it’s her hope the program will see more vulnerable people in the community housed than previously. She noted that while some may need ongoing support, there are many who simply need some basic supports to get into the private rental market. The 100 Homes project will help prospective tenants access supports and other programs that may help them be successful.

“There’s a lot of barriers,” she said of the market, noting that affordability is a major barrier for most people.

She pointed out securing housing has been shown to have a ripple effect in more positive health outcomes for communities and can also result in less demand on other programs. As an example, she noted it could mean less pressure on the services provided by the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter.

Whitehorse was one of 73 municipalities from across the country to be provided with funding through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to address homelessness. Whitehorse city council voted in July to accept the $46,000 to address homelessness with the 100 Homes project.

While the funding came through FCM, it was the Canadian Medical Association Foundation providing the cash to address COVID-19 impacts on homelessness in municipalities.

Mayor Dan Curtis said he’s excited for the program to now launch.

“Homelessness is an issue that continues to impact our community, but it doesn’t have to be,” he said. “The latest Point-in-Time Count shows that the goal of eliminating homelessness is achievable. City council was extremely supportive of this initiative in July and we look forward to seeing all 100 homes filled with community members next spring.”

In a staff report to council ahead of the vote in favour of accepting the funds, it was noted that when the city learned it would receive the $46,000, it asked the Safe At Home community advisory board for a recommendation on how to use the funding.

“(The advisory board) responded with a proposal that the gift be used to fund development and roll-out of a ‘100 Homes Campaign’ working with landlords to accept more people at risk of homelessness or to prevent evictions and therefore prevent homelessness,” Mike Gau, the city’s director for development services, said in his report to council at the time.

“This initiative strongly supports the overall Safe at Home plan and responds to the impacts of COVID19 by reducing the risks of exposure within a vulnerable population.”

100 Homes will take a collaborative approach and involve Safe at Home partners, service providers and those with lived or living experience of homelessness, Gau said.

“It will be built on the learnings of similar landlord engagement strategies in Penticton, B.C; Kawartha Lakes-Haliburton, Stratford-Perth-St. Mary’s, Dufferin County and Peel Region in Ontario,” he said in the report to council.

It went on to state the 100 Homes Campaign fits well with the criteria of the FCM for the funding.

“The gift is intended to complement, not to replace or displace existing sources of funding provided by YG or federal programs,” Gau said.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

affordable housingHousing and Homelessness

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