City signs on to national campaign:Program's priority is to find housing

The Starphoenix, June 22, 2015 -

A national campaign that is aiming to give 20,000 homeless Canadians a permanent roof over their heads by 2018 is coming to Saskatoon.

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) will train volunteers from across Canada to survey the homeless and create a priority list to determine who is most in need of permanent housing.

DeeAnn Mercier of social agency The Lighthouse says the campaign aspires to identify the people who are most at risk of dying due to homelessness.

"We want to see that these people are prioritized within the community to receive housing," said Mercier, who has attended sessions with the initiative.

The alliance will train volunteers to survey the homeless and to do assessments and monthly reporting on the number of homeless people in the city.

"Once we have a good picture we can start talking about the numbers of how many need housing and what those numbers will look like," said Mercier.

The idea for the campaign came from a U.S. initiative to find permanent homes for 100,000 homeless people in four years. That effort involved 175 communities and surpassed its goal by finding homes for 105,580 people.

The alliance has already signed up 2 1 communities, including Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, and Halifax.

Tim Richter, the president of CAEH, says the campaign will cost about $1 million annually to run. Most of the money will come from Ottawa's Housing First, which received $600 million in 2014 to last over four years.

"The cure is housing," he said. "It's making that important shift from managing homelessness to ending it."

Richter said Canada spends $7 billion a year on the homeless, but finding permanent housing for them in Alberta would only cost $18,000 per individual.

The campaign in Saskatoon coincides with a oneday count of the city's homeless population next week.

Mercier says the data will help provide demographic information for the campaign.

"The results of this survey will help inform us of the number of houses we need to work toward," she said.

Teams of volunteers go to shelters and walk outside to find homeless people indoors and outdoors, or those who are at risk of being homeless.

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