Programs Aiming to Curb Homelessness in CanadaOn any given day, there are 35,000 people experiencing homelessness in Canada. There are governmental policies in place to prevent people from experiencing homelessness, but the policies are not enough to end homelessness. Several programs aim to curb homelessness in Canada.

The New Leaf Project

This program consists of a study within which 50 homeless Canadians would receive $7,500 CAD and researchers would examine their lives over the next 12 to 18 months in comparison to a control group that did not receive money. Many argue that providing funding to the homeless population is not effective as the assumption is that the money would go toward drugs and alcohol. However, the findings in this study say the contrary. The New Leaf Project found that homeless people spent the money on essentials and could secure housing faster than the control group.

The study also found that people who received the money could attain food security as well. About 70% of the people receiving funding could find food within the first month and maintained greater food security for the rest of the year.

Another finding reveals that those who received funding spent most of it on rent, clothing and food. The study also noted a 39% decrease in purchases of drugs or alcohol as well. Some people spent the money on other necessities like transportation, whether it was purchasing a bike or funding repairs to their vehicles. Some even purchased computers or saved money to start businesses. The study only proved that when you invest in the homeless, they are more likely to spend money on resources or endeavors that can improve their quality of life.

Housing First in Canada: At Home/Chez Soi

This program was another study that tested the effectiveness of Housing First on Canadians back in 2009. Housing First, which originates from New York City in the 1990s, provides rapid housing combined with additional support for homeless people with mental health issues and drug addiction. The program achieved major success in New York City, so the people of At Home/Chez Soi wanted to see if the success could be replicated in Canada.

Prior to the study, a few Canadian cities had plans to reduce homelessness. However, there was a lack of innovation to push beyond simply establishing shelters. A lack of federal funding to focus on the root causes and preventable approaches to homelessness in Canada also played a role.

Since the launch of Housing First in Canada, about 70 Canadian cities have adopted the program, helping more than 1,000 Canadians find safe and affordable housing where many continued to stay after a decade. This study proves that “when communities use their existing skills and knowledge and combine that with a strong toolkit like At Home/Chez Soi, they can help to address the needs of local populations and go a long way to curbing homelessness.”

An Overview of Homelessness in Canada

Homelessness was not a prevalent issue until the late 1980s. People did experience homelessness prior to that time, however, it was not as common as it is today.

The Canadian government did enact the National Housing Act in 1973 to provide social housing for low-income citizens, but the government cut back on social housing and other related programs in 1984. By the time 1987 hit, the government cutback caused a surge in homelessness.

By 1996, federal spending on constructing new social housing ceased and the federal government handed the responsibility for most existing social housing to the provinces. Like homeless people in many countries, homeless people in Canada rely on nonprofit organizations to attend to their needs. All nonprofits agree that “strategies to address homelessness must be tailored to each population group’s needs.”

Homeless people also rely on shelters to meet their needs. There are emergency shelters that provide shared sleeping facilities and some offer private rooms. However, these shelters expect clients to leave the morning after. Some shelters offer mid-term housing solutions and some have developed long-term housing units. These shelters also provide food, clothing, laundry services and references to other services or organizations. Other shelters offer counseling, legal assistance, harm reduction and advocacy.

While there are services available to help those experiencing homelessness in Canada, it is not enough to address the root causes of homelessness and prevent it from happening in the first place. Investing in the homeless is a viable option to help identify these root causes and end homelessness in Canada.

Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Israel
Israel has one of the highest poverty rates among developed countries. In 2016, approximately 21% of Israelis were below the poverty line. Despite this prevalent issue, the country has yet to adopt a system for combating homelessness. The Israeli Association for Civil Rights reported 25,000 homeless people residing in Israel, though the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services accounted for just 1,872 people living on the streets. Due to social services’ stringent standards for qualifying people as “homeless,” thousands of street dwellers and otherwise vulnerable people are unable to find permanent housing and meet their basic living needs. These three organizations have acknowledged the housing crisis and are fighting homelessness in Israel by providing positive communities, social support and safe housing opportunities to those most in need.

 3 Organizations Fighting Homelessness in Israel

  1. Homeless World Cup Foundation. This organization works in Tel Aviv to support Football for the Homeless, a program that coordinates weekly training sessions for homeless adults. The Homeless World Cup Foundation organizes an annual week-long soccer tournament with over 500 players from countries around the world, all of whom have experienced homelessness. In 2019, the Cardiff 2019 Homeless World Cup attracted over 80,000 spectators as well as millions of online viewers. Participants’ social workers typically refer them to the Football for the Homeless training program. In addition to playing soccer, participants can gain coaching qualifications to help maintain the program’s sustainable business structure. In 2019, Israel sent three teams (two from Tel Aviv and one from Jerusalem) with four players each to the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff, Wales.
  2. Israel Homeless Association. The Israel Homeless Association (IHA) supports young professionals and families who have become homeless due to economic upheaval in the Middle East and diminishing social services in Israel. Examples of such beneficiaries include young parents living in tent cities or those unable to afford public transportation to work outside of their neighborhood. For three consecutive years, IHA has provided clothing to every person registered with the Homeless Offices in Beer Sheva and Eilat. The organization also collaborated with members of the Knesset to relocate seven families subject to forcible evacuation in Beer Sheva, and later distributed over $7,500 worth of toys to 130 displaced children in the Negev region. Such accolades have contributed to IHA’s ranking as one of the premier micro-charities in Israel.
  3. ELEM / Youth in Distress in Israel. ELEM / Youth in Distress in Israel aims to “treat and transform” the lives of vulnerable young people in Israel. ELEM’s 285 professionals and 2,000 volunteers make the organization one of the region’s leading nonprofits. ELEM serves 21,000 youth on an annual basis and cites the 100,000 children seeking its services as evidence for the urgent need to support Israel’s young people in crisis. This year, ELEM funded 82 youth programs that provide services such as mentoring, counseling and vocational training in 42 cities across Israel. To help protect highly vulnerable young women living on the street, ELEM founded The Shelter for Homeless Young Women in Jerusalem. The shelter serves 18- to 26-year-old women struggling with substance use disorders, prostitution and estranged family members. This space offers these women unconditional humanitarian aid, clothing, hot food, showers and legal advice. In 2018, the shelter succeeded in increasing street patrols to protect vulnerable women in the neighborhood, developing a professional training course for new volunteers and moving to a renovated new building. In the future, ELEM hopes to further develop the shelter to allow for extended opening hours and continued support for young women following their stays at the shelter.

A Long-term Solution

Due to the dynamic and diverse nature of homelessness, Israel’s policies governing social and housing services struggle to account for a significant portion of this population. The aforementioned organizations work to fill the housing gap that the government left by creating positive and sustainable living experiences for Israel’s homeless population; however, additional work is necessary to reduce homelessness in Israel.

In response to the city’s homelessness crisis, the Tel Aviv municipality is planning to implement Housing First programming. Housing First is an innovative model for addressing urban homelessness that multiple cities across the United States has already adopted along with countries including France, Denmark and Finland.

In exchange for 30% of their income and coordinated check-ins from program representatives, Housing First residents have 24/7 access to a one-room apartment and other long-term benefits. Following their transitions into permanent housing, residents receive supportive services and swift connection to opportunities within their local communities.

In January 2020, Housing First was still in its very early planning stages and some have noted the significant need for government funding; however, Tel Aviv City Hall states that its social services department continues to closely investigate the model. Despite the financial and political challenges of implementing a new strategy for managing homelessness in Israel, city officials reported that “the existing solutions are short-term and in too many cases don’t free the homeless from the circle of suffering…we are not giving up and are examining innovative methods used around the world.”

– Lindsay Rosenthal
Photo: Wikipedia


6 Facts About Homelessness in Portugal
Portugal’s idyllic location near the Atlantic Ocean has made it a popular location for tourists around the globe. The Mediterranean nation’s legacy as a maritime empire, beaches in the Azores region and specialty seafood dishes such as grilled cod come to mind for many. While it enjoys its status as a developed country, it is not immune to social and economic problems. One of Portugal’s most pressing issues is homelessness. The nation has taken several initiatives to address the situation within its borders. Here are eight facts about homelessness in Portugal.

8 Facts About Homelessness in Portugal

  1. Homeless Portuguese people account for 0.04% of the population. As of early 2020, 4,414 out of 10 million population were on the streets.
  2. The majority of the homeless in Portugal are men. Recent surveys on homelessness in Portugal found that 82% of the homeless population were male.
  3. The homeless population in Portugal is rising. A recent study after the 2008 recession found that the number of homeless increased by 14% in a five-year span, from 1,445 to 1,679. This number has increased substantially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic placed unique pressures on the Portuguese capital regarding the homeless. With COVID-19 shutting down the economy, many of Lisbon’s residents lost their jobs. In addition, the pandemic affected those with odd jobs, followed by non-contract workers and eventually members of the lower-middle class. As a result, many found themselves on the streets as they were unable to provide for themselves. Before the pandemic, Lisbon had 360 homeless people according to municipal services. About 200 people stay in homeless shelters. However, these shelters are no longer large enough to accommodate the current numbers.
  5. Fortunately, the Basic Housing Law made housing an official right for all Portuguese. In 2019, a bill passed that placed the responsibility of ensuring adequate housing to citizens on the Portuguese government. This law highlights the importance of the social function of housing, with the goals of eliminating homelessness, using public real estate for price-friendly housing and forbidding tenant evictions especially in Lisbon, the capital.
  6. The Portuguese government is working with NGOs to eliminate housing problems. Since 2009, Housing First has gained significant attention from policymakers. AEIPS, an NGO, operates it in tandem with university researchers. It was first implemented in the parish of Santa Maria Maior but has since extended to the entire city of Lisbon. The project provided people with immediate access to independent apartments in various areas while offering support services unique to each individual’s issues. Over 2,051 of Portugal’s homeless benefit from the initiatives of Housing First.
  7. Portugal’s homeless receive healthcare from street teams. These street teams, which mostly consist of hired or medical volunteers, receive funding from public and private resources. Their priority is to reduce harm in substance abuse amongst the homeless. The teams typically offer risk-reduction programs and emergency first aid in cases of negligence.
  8. The Portuguese capital is spearheading efforts to combat homelessness swiftly. Teaming with the aforementioned Housing First, the Lisbon city council made a pledge for the 2019-2021 period. The city council announced its intention to invest €14.5 million in tackling homelessness. Additionally, the city council plans to build 400 homes available for use by 2023.

The economic implications of the 2008 recession paired with the effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic have aggravated what the Portuguese president defined as a national challenge. Luckily, both national and local governments are introducing initiatives to weather and reduce homelessness in the upcoming years. If Portugal continues to zero in on this issue and make good on its promise to provide housing for all, then perhaps this challenge will become a thing of the past for this developed nation. In addition, Portugal could inspire other countries struggling with homelessness to do the same.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Austria
Although Austria has no national plan to combat homelessness, provinces like Vienna, Upper Austria and Vorarlberg strive to make advances when it comes to finding a solution. Increases in homelessness come as a result of rising unemployment and housing costs. In an attempt to mitigate this, some cities take the staircase approach —  a series of steps and services a person, who may deal with mental illness or addiction, must complete in order to live independently.

To properly place a person on the spectrum of homelessness, the government adopted the conceptual categories of “roofless” and “homeless” which the European Federation of Organizations working with the Homeless brought forth. People living on the streets or using emergency shelters classify as “roofless,” while “homeless” is the term for people living in homeless accommodations like hostels, women’s shelters or immigration centers.

Quick Facts

In 2019, the European Social Policy Network released a report discussing the ins and outs of homelessness in Austria. The organization determined that the country saw a 21% increase in people registered as homeless from 2008 to 2017. By 2017, a total of 21,567 people registered, of which 13,926 has the classification of roofless and 8,688 were homeless.

The report also noted that more men than women registered, which may be a result of “hidden female homelessness,” meaning that women are more likely to stay in a friend’s house or precarious housing. At the report’s October 2012 reference date, roughly 7,381 out of the 10,089 homeless and roofless population were men.

Vienna as a Solution

In recent years, Vienna has become a model for fighting homelessness for other cities across the globe including Vancouver and various cities in the United States and Asia. The key to the city’s success comes from its protection of open space, transit-centered development, rent control and a focus on building neighborhoods with mixed ethnic, age and income communities. On top of that, roughly $700 million goes to government-subsidized “social housing,” which shelters 60% of the capital’s population. This results in a combination of non-market and market affordable housing.

One of the plans providing opportunities for those in need in Vienna and other Austrian cities is Housing First. Through the organization, housing is the initial step, unlike the staircase program where participants must address their other problems like mental health, addiction and more before obtaining housing. Housing First’s approach is to replace traditional institutions with flats in the municipality housing sector so that people can build their lives knowing that they have a roof over their heads. Since its launch in 2012, the organization has placed 349 people in homes. As of 2016, housing stability was at 96.6%.

Another initiative called Shades Tours emerged in 2015 and gives the homeless a unique employment opportunity in Vienna and Graz. The company provides tours to the public, but rather than sight-seeing historic buildings, homeless guides show the city through their socio-political perspective giving an insight into one of three categories: poverty and homelessness, refugee and integration or drugs and addiction. Through the tours, it hopes to further educate the public about the challenges the homeless face while also providing guides with an income.

An Advocate for the Future

The Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Wohnungslosenhilfe, also known as the National Association of Assistance to the Homeless, is a nonprofit that emerged in 1991 to reduce homelessness in Austria. It primarily does so by organizing national responses and a network of facilities through public relations work. Among other projects, it wants to facilitate a nationwide policy that issues subsidies to people at risk for poverty and dealing with high housing costs in an effort to promote its idea of “Living for Everyone.”

Recently the BAWO released statements urging the Austrian government to take proactive measures to reduce the possible increase of homelessness as a result of COVID-19 by freezing evictions and lengthening hours of emergency shelters. As an advocate for this marginalized population, there is a hope for the future. The BAWO’s determination to lower housing costs and create affordable, permanent housing, helps renovate a society that previously made climbing the economic ladder difficult.

With these initiatives and advocates, homelessness in Austria can look to continue its downward trajectory. As more cities and provinces dedicate additional resources towards tackling homelessness and possibly replicating Vienna’s approaches, the country can push toward record lows of registered homelessness and demonstrate a working model to the rest of the world.

Adrianna Tomasello
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in Sweden
is known for its generous welfare state; however, homelessness in Sweden is a rising concern. Swedes spend a larger proportion of their disposable income on housing compared to other European countries, and that figure is rising rapidly. The lack of affordable housing and the growing population has led to a housing crisis and an increase in homelessness.

The definition of homelessness in Sweden is divided into four categories:

  • acute homelessness

  • institutional care and category housing

  • long-term housing solutions

  • short-term insecure housing solutions

The Swedish government conducts a national survey every six years to analyze trends in homelessness. The survey reported that 33,269 people were homeless in 2017. Since the last report in 2011, acute homelessness increased from 4,500 to 5,935 people, and those in long-term housing solutions increased from 13,900 to 15,838.

Who Are The Most Vulnerable to Homelessness?

Women are increasingly more susceptible to homelessness, compared to men. More than one-third of the homeless in Sweden have children younger than 18, resulting in at least 24,000 children with parents who are homeless.

The majority of parents struggling with homelessness stated the main cause as having an income too low for them to qualify as tenants in the ordinary housing market. This factor forces them to enter the secondary market and into long-term, but insecure, housing situations.

In recent years, a large influx of migrants including refugees has contributed to rising homelessness in Sweden. Around 43% of people that are homeless were born in a country other than Sweden. Sweden has the highest rate of homelessness per 1,000 inhabitants in Scandanavia.

More people are becoming homeless due to evictions, sudden unemployment, or relationship breakups than due to mental health or substance abuse issues. Since more than 20% of the homeless do not need additional social services besides housing, they do not get support at all. The largest contributor to homelessness in Sweden is the housing crisis.

The Housing Crisis

There is a lack of available and affordable housing in Sweden, especially in cities. In 2017, 88% of municipalities reported a housing shortage. The wait time for an apartment is significantly increasing over time, making it nearly impossible to secure a rental apartment.

A reason for the shortage is that new construction is not keeping up with the growing population. There is low production of new public housing or rental apartments due to the cost of land, workers and materials; the cost is high due to the extremely high demand. There is little space left to build, and architects and city planners are reluctant to build taller to adhere to Swedish building customs. The rentals that are built are directed to upper-class markets with an average rental rate substantially higher than what social services will pay. Rising costs have made it even more difficult for marginalized groups to enter the conventional housing market.

What is the Solution?

To deal with the lack of housing, some have turned to co-housing. Companies such as Colive are remodeling large houses where tenants would pay for a bedroom and shared common spaces. The plan is to create tens of thousands of units within the decade.

Homelessness in Sweden is more of a structural issue than a social one, although the social aspects should not be ignored. While there is no explicit national strategy to address homelessness, there have been calls for an integrated housing provision strategy in which the state, region and municipality are all jointly responsible for providing adequate housing. Policies need to be more proactive to tackle the large proportion of people stuck in the secondary housing market. Measures need to be put in place to incentivize affordable housing builds with specific goals for low-income housing, according to the Stadmissionen report.

Having one’s own home is a fundamental need that also offers safety and security. Housing First, a method for dealing with homelessness in New York City, was implemented in Stockholm and Helsingborg in 2010. This approach eliminates conditions for housing and treats housing as a fundamental human right. Now, 94 municipalities in the country have Housing First strategies; these programs are local and not national.

Overall, the solution to homelessness in Sweden requires solving the housing crisis. The government needs to enact policies that spur affordable constructions while simultaneously moving the responsibility of homelessness prevention to municipalities and the state rather than social services.

Katie Gagnon
Photo: Pixabay

top 10 facts of living conditions in New Zealand
Nestled in the Pacific, just off the coast of Australia, New Zealand is a two-island country made up of the North and South Island. The two islands combined have a population of 3.7 million people. New Zealand is a country with booming tourism and many sites to see. In many ways, the country is doing well in providing for its citizens, but there are some areas that still need improvement. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in New Zealand.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in New Zealand

  1. One hundred percent of the New Zealand population is registered on “community drinking water supplies.” New Zealand’s water access is tested for protozoal and bacteriological compliance, which means that the water meets E. coli standards and is treated for protozoa. However, there are differences to access between the North and South Island. Both islands have 96 percent of water access meeting the bacteriological standards. However, when testing for protozoal compliance, the North Island drops down to 86 percent, and the South Island is as low as 66 percent of water access.
  2. About 41,000 people are homeless in New Zealand, which is almost one percent of the population. Research has broken homelessness into three categories in New Zealand: chronically, episodically and transitionally. The homeless problem in New Zealand is mostly transitional at 80 percent, meaning that people generally are displaced during a transition period in their lives. People who are chronically homeless make up the lowest numbers at 5 percent of homeless individuals.
  3. Housing First focuses on placing homeless people in the greater Auckland region into houses and providing support when needed. The organization prioritizes providing housing first, then the next steps are providing support services for mental health and substance use when needed. Its aim is for individuals to keep their tenancy and pursue their goals in a community. From May 2017 until December 2018, Housing First provided housing for 376 children and 461 households overall, with 57 percent of these households being Māori, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand.
  4. The poverty rate for children living in New Zealand is 27 percent. Child poverty can be defined as a child lacking emotional and material support in order for them to develop and survive. It is estimated that 14 percent of children do not have access to basic necessities like clean clothing, housing and healthy foods. The New Zealand government has now committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and will be working to cut child poverty in half by 2030.
  5. About 11 percent of children are food insecure in New Zealand. Fortunately, companies and food businesses are concerned about hunger. SkyCity has donated more than 600 kilograms of food to rescue groups and food banks over the last two years. That is equivalent to 1,900 meals. Another large corporation, Countdown, donated $3.7 million worth of food supplies to local food banks in New Zealand. A small restaurant owner, Asher Boote, donates all of his excess food from his three restaurants back into the community through Kaibosh, a food rescue group. Both large and small businesses can help make a difference regarding hunger in New Zealand.
  6. Opening in 1994, the Child Poverty Action Group is a registered charity in New Zealand. The charity strives to end child poverty with research, education and advocacy. The organization researches the causes and effects of poverty in New Zealand and publishes its findings in order to educate the public and alert politicians and policymakers to enact change.
  7. In November 2018, New Zealand’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent, the lowest it has been in 10 years. There was no change in the annual wage growth of 1.9 percent. If economist’s predictions are correct, New Zealand may see another .5 percent in employment growth within the next fiscal quarter.
  8. New Zealand’s access to health care is free or relatively low cost compared to other countries. There is great access with more than 3,500 general practitioners in both large and small cities throughout New Zealand as well as 40 public hospitals. However, there is a lack of access to transportation problem for some. In 2016/17, it was calculated that about 7.5 percent of Māori adults and 4.8 percent of Māori children were unable to get to the general practitioner or a hospital because of the lack of transportation or lack of access to transportation.
  9. Talk Teeth is one of many programs that focuses on the health of children. This program allows any child under the age of 18 to have free basic dental care annually. Standard treatments provided are a routine check for tooth decay and gum health, fluoride treatments to protect your teeth against decay, plaque cleaning, X-rays for tooth decay and teeth extractions. Children can be enrolled as early as one year of age for the Talk Teeth program by calling or filling out forms through public schools.
  10. New Zealand’s school system is compulsory for ages six through 16. There are currently 13 years of school in the system, including both primary and secondary schooling. Most children attend state schools or public schools; only five percent of children attend private school in New Zealand. Schools focus on balancing practical and theoretical learning as well as encouraging students to get involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, or clubs. Ninety-nine percent of children were enrolled in primary school in 2016 with almost no gender disparity.
These top 10 facts about living conditions in New Zealand show that the country is trying to better the lives of all its citizens. Through large corporations, nonprofit organizations and government initiatives, New Zealand will continue to flourish in areas where it is already strong and create solutions to issues affecting its people.
– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr