Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gee Boss, We Better Clean up that Homelessness quick, 2010 is almost here

Methinks somebodies are getting a little freaked out at how fast the Olympics are upon us and what it's all going to look like to the international media.

Housing minister puts homelessness issue under 1 roof
CBC News

The B.C. government is handing the difficult job of tackling homelessness to one minister who says he will measure success by finding homes for the homeless.

[Ed. comment: Well, that's a novel approach, geeze, it just might work, wonder why no-one thought of that before??? It's like shooting fish in a barrel, eh?] ;-}

"If you went and talked to the social service agencies, whether they be in Kelowna or the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, they'll tell you things have gotten a lot better in the last few years. But we really felt there needed to be one more level of integration."

[Hmmm, I'm thinking the rapidly growing HOMELESS population might beg to differ with this spin. Just because you say it over and over doesn't make it true.]

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Single ministry to integrate services for homeless
Rob Shaw, Times Colonist
. March 3, 2009.

Finding solutions to homelessness in B.C. communities will now fall under a single government ministry to coordinate health, housing and social services, the provincial government announced today.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman will lead the Homelessness Intervention Project, to push the various arms of government, along with non-profit groups, together in an “integrated” plan, he said.

For a person on the street, Coleman said it will make for “more seamless movement” between the numerous programs that provide such things as income help, a place to live, addictions services and health care.

“It was decided to basically give the role to one minister to integrate all of this across government, to actually be the person in charge that says all of you report into our system now,” said Coleman.

We will actually measure the outcomes and if we have programs who aren’t working for financial reasons... we have the ability to move those resources to get the results we want.”

Integrated teams will target around 2,000 people in five communities — Kelowna, Victoria, Surrey, Prince George and Vancouver — to get them immediate access to housing and care, government said in a news release.

Victoria already has integrated teams, called ACT, which work with police to get housing, addiction services, health care and income support for people in need.

Government wants to benchmark the success of such teams and, if necessary, change or merge them with other programs, said Coleman.

He singled out Victoria as being particularly helpful in finding useable land for housing under former mayor Alan Lowe and current mayor, Dean Fortin.

The province said BC Housing has immediately made available 250 units of housing, 40 of which are in Victoria. However, it was not known if those units had been previously announced by government.

Coleman trumpeted B.C.’s accomplishments on homelessness, saying agencies have told him “things have gotten a lot better in the last few years.” [What agencies might those be?]

Government will measure success by how many homeless people are housed and stay housed a year later, said Coleman. In the last two years, 4,600 people were connected with support from outreach teams and 80 per cent are still housed today, said Coleman. The province has also purchased 45 properties and renovated them into usable low-income housing, as well as building 1,500 units of which 200 or 300 are becoming available in the next few months, he said.

A lead government employee will report directly to a deputy government minister who reports quarterly to Coleman.

NDP critic Jenny Kwan called it “rich” that the Liberal government is trying to fix homelessness problems it created by cutting programs.

“I think the government’s just going to be talking a song and dance in trying to fix a problem they created,” she said.

The provincial budget will reduce housing funding by $80 million, said Kwan. Government would be better served by investing in the societies on the ground that are doing the real work, she said.

“What we need in addressing the homelessness crisis is not that complicated. We actually need to build housing. And without the budget, without the money, the units are not going to be built and people will remain homeless in the streets.”

rfshaw@tc.canwest.co,

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