Kate Mechan, Safe at Home’s implementation manager, speaks during a two-day human rights commission conference in Whitehorse on June 26, 2018. The Safe At Home 100 Homes campaign is set to receive $46,000 after Whitehorse city council voted July 27 in favour of accepting the amount being provided specifically to help address homelesseness. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

City accepts funding to address homelessness

$46,000 will go towards 100 Homes campaign

The Safe At Home 100 Homes campaign will get underway with $46,000 after Whitehorse city council voted July 27 in favour of accepting the amount being provided specifically to help address homelessness.

As Kate Mechan, Safe at Home’s implementation manager, said in a July 28 interview the cash infusion means the 100 Homes campaign can be developed and then implemented with a focus on working directly with landlords to help those who need housing attain it. As the title suggests the goal is to help find 100 homes. There’s a number of people with trouble finding housing, who with the right front line supports in place would do well with private market rentals, she said. This will see work done with the private sector to help ensure that happens.

As she told council via conference call during the July 27 meeting: “We need more forums, more one-on-one engagement” with landlords in addressing homelessness and this program will focus on that.

“The idea’s really in its infancy,” Mechan said, noting there’s a number of initiatives with similar goals across the country that will be explored as work gets underway on the local program.

While the details of the campaign have yet to be determined and confirmed, she said she envisions a dedicated campaign coordinator being in place that would oversee it and work with landlords.

As Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, stated in a report to council ahead of the vote, the city was informed in early June by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities community response program (which is administering the funds) that Whitehorse was one of 73 of Canadian cities selected for funding.

The funding itself comes from the Canadian Medical Association Foundation and is in place to address COVID-19 impacts on homelessness in municipalities. Mechan said the global pandemic has highlighted the importance of safe housing for everyone.

In his report to council, Gau pointed to the city’s ongoing involvement along with other governments in the Safe at Home plan that aims to end and prevent homelessness in Whitehorse. The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition administers the funds for the Safe at Home implementation manager and thus would receive the funding for the 100 Homes campaign under the Safe at Home plan.

After the city learned it would receive the $46,000, staff asked the community advisory board for the Safe at Home Plan 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,” Gau said.

“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.”

The campaign 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 goes 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.

Mechan said she’s pleased the ongoing work to address homelessness is being supported by the community.

“It’s really exciting for Safe At Home,” she said.

Council members were vocal in their support ahead of the vote, also praising the work of those involved with Safe At Home for their efforts.

“I just see this as a real positive,” Coun. Jan Stick said.

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

Housing and Homelessness

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