Published in Valley Voice July 18, 2019
A new small-scale project aimed at providing supportive housing for Kaslo’s homeless or precariously-housed population is poised to move ahead. “All we are missing now is the collaboration of a landlord,” says Erika Bird, chair of the Kaslo Housing Society (KHS).
The society’s program- Community Working to End Homelessness (CWEH)- provides supportive housing to persons needing assistance with finding and staying successfully housed, and who may be hard to house due to a poor housing record, poverty, stigmatizing health conditions, addictions or mental health challenges.
How does CWEH work?
The goal is for KHS to lease an accessible, affordable, adequate unit from a lalndlord for at least one year. KHS then sublets the accommodation while assuming responsibility for rent payment and the condition of the unit. KHS , the landlord and the tenant all agree to work together to ensure tenant housing success. Persons selected to receive housing through the CWEH program will receive support services and case management from a housing navigator.
In effect, the CWEH creates a partnership between a landlord, Kaslo Housing Society and the person in need of stable housing.
The idea behind the CWEH program is not new. “We heard about this program from Kevin Flaherty, our staff at the Kaslo Housing Society” said Bird. “He’d met a group in Whitehorse who have had success with it for a number of years now. They encouraged us to try it as it has proved to be a way of creating solutions on a small scale one person at a time. The experience in Whitehorse is that the program will grow in support and capacity once the community sees the initial success.”
Bird says that before launching the program in Kaslo, the society wanted to have the commitment of resources to support one person for at least one year. “Thanks to some community-minded people here and the Columbia Basin Trust, we now have that,” she says. “We would also like to give a shout out to the staff at Kaslo Western Financial Group who contributed $15,000 from their Community Fundraising Walk.”
Bird says individuals in Kaslo have made pledges to support the program with $10 or $20 per month. “The generosity of these individuals has really impressed us,” she said.
A $5,000. Social Grant from Columbia Basin Trust will get the project off the ground and help the society find the right person to assume the role of housing navigator, “she said. The society has also committed some of its own funds that is has raised through numerous activities over the years.
Persons wishing to make donations to the CWEH or other projects of the Kaslo Housing Society can go to CanadaHelps.ca and make monthly or one time contributions. As a registered charitable organization, the Kaslo Housing Society can issue charitable tax receipts to donors.
Finding suitable accommodation now the priority
With the funds coming together for the first year, Kevin Flaherty, KHS housing coordinator says the focus now is finding a willing and suitable landlord to work with. “We recognize that those offering long-term rental accommodations in this community have choices in applicants for the spaces. We are asking that they consider the support that this project offers an the long-term benefits to the community of having stable housing for all.”
The project will be guided by a CWEH Working Group of interested and skilled community members. The group will have access to a host of policies and practices that have worked well in other communities. One of the goals of the program is to improve the chances of self-sufficiency of homeless individuals and those at imminent risk of homelessness.
Support that will be offered includes helping with the paperwork, transitioning into accommodation, maintaining good landlord relationships, assisting with conflict resolution between tenants and landlords, providing housing loss prevention interventions, and assisting tenants with processes required to obtain rent subsidies.
Experience in Canada and other countries has shown that this model makes for high success rates for individuals who likely are addressing other problems which contribute to their housing difficulties. The CWEH model also minimizes risks for landlords while meaningfully engaging them in resolving homelessness in the community. It will allow KHS to support persons in need without having to own buildings. It will integrate those persons into the community rather than ghettoizing them into one building or neighbourhood and it is designed to be long-term and stable.
Affordable housing is not a Kaslo only concern; a greater and greater proportion of the population is facing housing challenges. The CWEH approach will not address all the housing issues in Kaslo and surrounding area, but it will help to meet the needs of those who face the more intransigent barriers in their search for adequate housing. Meanwhile KHS is actively pursuing longer term solutions.
For more information, contact Kevin Flaherty, Housing coordinator, Kaslo Housing Society, 250-353-8363