Supportive Housing of Waterloo (SHOW) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to build and operate permanent,
affordable, supportive housing for people approaching or experiencing persistent homelessness in Waterloo Region, especially people currently accessing the Kitchener-Waterloo Out of the Cold Program (OOTC). SHOW was founded by 13 churches and faith groups in Waterloo. Their first project on Erb Street in Waterloo was completed and occupied in June 2010.
SHOW is a five story apartment complex with 30 self-contained one-bedroom units (each sized approximately 500 sq. ft.). There are common areas for consultations, meetings and recreation, and offices for management and support work. The apartments are intended to provide much needed affordable housing with support within the city of Waterloo. Consistent, reliable support services with a harm reduction approach are considered key to ensuring people maintain their housing and move forward with their lives.
SHOW is one of the programs offered under the umbrella of STEP Home (support to end persistent homelessness). STEP Home is an interrelated set of programs designed to end and prevent persistent homelessness in Waterloo Region. Presently, seven different programs are offered through eight organizations at 13 sites. Ultimately, STEP Home is working towards a goal of ending persistent homelessness within an overall vision that Waterloo Region is an inclusive community where everyone has adequate housing, income and support to make a home.
The SHOW project took seven years to become reality. It started as an idea among OOTC providers in 2003 and the building was finally completed in 2010, offering housing to 30 people with long histories of homelessness. This report documents the development of SHOW and identifies early positive indicators of change in tenants’ lives.
Information for this report was collected through focus groups, individual interviews, a review of SHOW documents, as well as various meetings with the SHOW Board, staff and community. In addition, tenant data was collected at the time of intake and after six months of operating.
Overall, the start-up of SHOW has been a positive learning process. There were facilitating factors as well as challenges identified. Facilitating factors included: vision, commitment and flexibility; site selection; community involvement; and funding. Challenges were identified to include: funding; support services planning and the support services funding model; discrimination and prejudice; and community inclusion. A “top 10″ list was identified for lessons learned and/or considerations for the future. Since opening in June 2010, there have been a number of early indicators of positive outcomes for tenants and the community.
From a community perspective, it is estimated that the provision of supportive housing reduces the total expected costs associated with homelessness (e.g., emergency shelter, hospital, corrections) by about 40% per individual. Locally, emergency and institutional responses (i.e., long-term care, prison, police response, ambulance, emergency room visits, acute psychiatric stays) were found on average to be roughly six times more expensive on a per diem basis than supportive housing with medium levels of support (e.g., SHOW).
Tenants indicated SHOW has provided them with a sense of security and permanence in their housing. This sense of security appears to have facilitated an opportunity to move toward other life goals and improved quality of life. Tenants reported their perceived quality of life has improved over the last six months and that their physical health, food situation, supports and ability to make their own decisions was better than when they started the program. Overall, tenants indicated they are happy with their housing, grateful to be living at SHOW, are more positive about their current life circumstances and are hopeful for the future. Tenants had the following to say about their experience of SHOW:
SHOW is a “great program“.
SHOW is a “gift from heaven”.
“The housing stability itself led to increased confidence in my own abilities”.
“I feel positive in all aspects of life; I can now set goals short term and long term”.
“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel”.
SHOW provides a new model of housing in Waterloo Region (general supportive housing with 24/7 on-site support services utilizing a harm reduction approach). SHOW is drawing attention to further gaps and challenges in the system for people to achieve housing stability. The hope is that this story is shared with others who can learn from this process and the value of providing housing first.
Persons interested in volunteering at SHOW should contact Barb Barnes by telephone at 519-571-9408, or by email at email@example.com.
For full report details, sourcing and definitions of terms,download a copy of the report.