Fighting family homelessness

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Family homelessness in Waterloo Region is coming under greater scrutiny with a federal funding allotment from the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) to study this local issue.

The funding, which was announced by Kitchener-Waterloo MP Peter Braid last Monday, totals $64,000 and will be used by the region to research more effective means of addressing family homelessness.

The funding, according to Braid, will “support the Region in their efforts to conduct a study on the risks of family homelessness to better understand the factors that increase risks of homelessness and how as a community we can mitigate those risks.”

Waterloo Region is one of 61 communities across the country that was designated by the HPS to receive support after its inception in 2008, Braid confirmed.

The Region submitted a proposal in June of last year after the HPS issued a call in the spring for applications for research on family homelessness.

“We were identifying that there was a phenomena occurring within our emergency shelter system which looked at a burgeoning number of families who were homeless, and we wanted to begin to understand what this looked like,” explained Lynn Randall, the director of Social Planning, Policy and Program Administration for Waterloo Region.

Between 2010 and 2011, the number of families accessing emergency shelter services increased by 30 per cent.

The Region will be accepting proposals to determine who will be conducting the research.

It will also be working with a team of local organizations consisting of “primary operators who serve families within our shelters and homelessness system,” Randall specified.

This will include organizations such as Mary’s Place, Lutherwood – Families in Transition and Marillac Place, among others. The agreement for the research will conclude on March 31, 2014.

Although the research will be focused on Waterloo Region, its applicability may extend beyond this community.

“While we’re being funded to look at it in our local context, the idea behind it, from the federal government’s point of view, is that this would be something that could possibly be applicable across the country, so that there’d be value in it for everybody,” Randall continued.

This particular project, according to Braid, aligns with the federal approach of addressing these issues at a community level first.

“We [the federal government] support the work of local governments and local organizations who are closest to this issue on the ground, who understand local problems and know how best to develop local solutions,”said Braid.

“These are important investments for levels of government to make,” Braid asserted.

“Having access to safe, affordable housing is an important building block of a strong community.”

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