Last week, we attended (and presented) at CMHC’s National Housing Conference. There is lots to reflect on as the Federal Government makes its way back into the housing space.
One of the sessions we attended was ‘Reaching Home’- a discussion on the new funding program for homelessness that will replace the Homelessness Partnering Strategy. More information will be forthcoming, but here is what I gleaned about the program based on sitting in the audience.
There was a stated intention in maintaining the community-based nature of the fund… to allow communities to create their own strategies and have some influence on how funds are deployed at the local level. There was also a focus in the session in funding coordinated access systems and data collection and analysis. 4 (out of 5) speakers spoke to how coordinated access was rolled out in their communities and the subsequent impact/system shifts. I was left with the impression (may or may not be correct) that Reaching Home funds will be primarily directed at coordinated access, data and accountability.
This led to an important discussion about coordinated access, and prioritization of service. Uncoordinated access has many different access points, duplication of service and can be difficult to navigate. Coordinated access aims to create one entry point and delivery of service based on highest level of acuity. The hope is that this will increase ease of navigation, reduce duplication of services, and increase transparency in the system- good things for sure. However, prioritization may also create unintended consequences by requiring people be at a certain level of crisis before being able to access the system. There is the potential that people at lower levels of crisis are not able to access housing and supports. Crisis is the place where interventions are most expensive, challenges more difficult to solve and after people have experienced significant levels of stress and potentially trauma. What is the potential of entrenching a system that only responds at point of crisis? What are the costs, human and financial, of this focus?
When I asked about this possible consequence of crisis-prioritization and the need to include a focus on prevention, the response is that we ‘need to address the current crisis of homelessness before we can think about prevention’. Anyone who knows RentSmart will know that we disagree with this sentiment. There is no way we, as a society, will ever solve homelessness without prevention. This requires (at least) an EQUAL investment in prevention as in crisis. The details of the Reaching Home Fund were vague, but we will be watching for resources that support a shift towards prevention planning and action, not just setting the stage for long-term crisis management.