Support Housing for Our Neighbours in Need!

This article by Barb Wahl originally appeared in the Waterloo Chronicle on April 27, 2017

Research demonstrates adequate housing is the essential cornerstone of mental and physical health.   Research also shows it is cheaper for governments to provide appropriate housing than to deal with the health and social services costs of those who are homeless or underhoused.  Yet, time after time, it is left to Boards of Directors, and kind private benefactors, to raise the dollar shortfall to build and maintain, as well as provide the adequate social and mental health support staff needed for our vulnerable neighbours.

One of the fastest growing needs in our community is to find affordable housing for the homeless and seniors; the waiting list for affordable housing is close to 3 years for seniors. Most housing units currently being built are not an option for people subsisting on government income supports, because paying those rents leaves virtually no money for food and other necessities.

Estimates show that one quarter of Waterloo’s population will be over 65 by 2020, with close to half of that group having inadequate pension funds to cover shelter costs. The crisis for affordable housing for marginalized adults and seniors has begun.  Unless addressed, these people will joint the ranks of the homeless.

To date, provision of housing for our homeless population has proven to save the region millions of tax dollars, because of significant reduction in utilization of emergency, inpatient and psychiatric services, and social, police and community supports.  For example, federally homelessness costs $7B, while provision of housing for the same people would cost $4.45 B.

Having an appropriate home is the first step in recovery for the homeless, or those unable to access decent housing.

For some like, Clarence Cachagee, moving from  homelessness to Supportive Housing of Waterloo (SHOW) provided the stability he needed to regroup, go on the finish high school and become gainfully employed in the very social services sector which had helped him!  From homelessness, addiction, and isolation, he was able to move forward.   He attributes his success to having a home, to supportive people around him, and to the caring for which our community is known.

SHOW has provided supportive housing for 6 years.  At this time, SHOW is expanding to a second building, offering more independent housing for homeless and underhoused adults. All levels of government and our community need to get behind this initiative, because any one of us may be in need at any time.  Our joint vision must be that no one will remain homeless and that no one should fear becoming homeless, because together we commit to building a community where housing and supports are available as required.

Together we must tell governments at all levels that affordable and supportive housing are a priority for our tax dollars!