Grande Prairie's 2009 Report Card on Housing and Homelessness Terry’s Story Terry* has lived in Grande Prairie all his life and has worked in the oil patch for several years. Because the work was in remote areas he used to live in a work camp four weeks straight and then had two weeks off. With working away so much of the time, Terry did not have his own home. He would stay with friends during the two weeks off paying them some rent and buying extra groceries for the household. In July, Terry was laid off from his well paying job. Suddenly, he was without any income. He had always Inside this had a job and wasn’t worried about finding another. report: Now, after submitting his resume for a countless Housing and P.2 number of companies and hearing the same words Homelessness “We aren’t hiring right now” he is worried. His family is Indicators unable to support him financially and he is ineligible Homelessness P.3-4 for income assistance. in Grande Prairie Terry’s friends don’t let him rent a room because he is unable to pay rent. He is now forced to couch-surf, with no place to call home. He has his meals at the Financial P.5-7 Information soup kitchen and spends his day checking for new job listings and delivering his resume. Unless he finds employment soon, Terry says he will be forced to Community P.8-11 leave his home-town and move to find a job. Services Terry is one of Grande Prairie’s hidden homeless. His story of sudden job-loss Housing First P. 12 and poor job prospects is now a common reality. This report card illustrates the complexity of factors colliding causing individuals and families in Grande Prairie to be at risk of or in becoming homeless. *Name changed to ensure anonymity This is the inaugural Report Card on Housing and Homelessness in Grande Prairie. It provides a point-in-time snapshot of the realities of housing and homelessness in Grande Prairie. The Report Card includes information collected from local agencies that support the homeless population and brings forward the voice of the homeless people. The quotes represent the thoughts and experiences of service providers and service users on homelessness (interview excerpts, 2009). It is produced by the Canadian Mental Health Association—Alberta Northwest Region, with funding provided by The United Way of Grande Prairie and Region. Page 2 Experiencing Homelessness The Basics The following table utilizes nationally recognized homelessness indicators with statistics for the city of Grande Prairie. The indicators were chosen for consistency with other published Canadian report cards and were deemed to be essential information to create a baseline measure. Using the same indicators in future report cards will allow our community to measure areas of growth and progress towards ending homelessness. As this is the first report card for Grande Prairie, future data will be graded for progress, like a school report card, based on this baseline information. The Current Situation in Grande Prairie The Local Context City of Grande Prairie population 50,227 (2007) Homelessness Indicators* Total number of admissions into shelter beds 3,111 Men 1103 Women 619 Children in families 457 Independent youth 932 Average length of stay in shelter bed 20.15 days Total days of stay in shelter 53,899 Total number of emergency shelter beds available¹ 94 For Men 39 For Women and children 45 For Youth 10 Total number of individuals accessing the mat program (The Oasis) 192 Total number of mats nights used (The Oasis) 2,664 nights Number of individuals entering addiction detox ² 1569 Number of individuals entering addiction treatment ³ 480 Number of meals served by Salvation Army ⁴ 17,855 Number of food hampers given by Salvation Army 1,380 Number of Homeless (point in time formula) 122 Number of Homeless Estimate 854 Income Indicators Median (after-tax) income, all census families (2005) $70,828/annually Income assistance (Alberta Works, single person, not expected to $687.00/month work, in private housing) Income for AISH recipient $1,188.00/month Minimum Wage $8.80/hour Housing Indicators Number of subsidized housing units – Grande Spirit Foundation ⁵ 93 Number of households on waiting list for direct rental subsidized 517 family housing Number of housing units receiving rental supplements 627 Number of long-term supportive living housing units for 58 individuals with mental illness – Willow Place Rental Vacancy Rate (Spring, 2009) 8.5% Average total cost of rent (Spring, 2009) $914.00/month *Shelter statistics are based on Wapiti Dorm, Willow Place, Fraser House, Odyssey House and Youth Emergency Shelter. Does not include Elder’s Shelter (ages 55+) or Oasis Mat Program (winter only). Based on data from April 1st, 2008 to March 31st, 2009. 1. Based on occupancy in Wapiti Dorm and Odyssey House and Sunrise House. Does not include Oasis Mat Program, Elder’s Shelter, or the 2 family rooms available at the Wapiti Dorm. 2. Data from April 1st, 2008 to March 31st, 2009. 3. Data from April 1st, 2008 to March 31st, 2009. Includes Northern Addiction Centre admissions to Business and Industry Clinic, Residential Program and Gambling Program. 4. Data period for Salvation Army is from January 1st to June 30th, 2009. 5. Family Housing Direct Rental, excludes Seniors Lodges and Seniors Apartments. Page 3 Experiencing Homelessness I feel a little lost. What does it mean to be homeless? I don’t want to go home because I’m lonely since There are many faces of homelessness in Grande Prairie. Some you my husband died. Being alone is hard. may recognize, many you won’t. Absolute Homelessness refers to people who live on the street, stay on friend or family members’ couches, live in places unfit for human inhabitation, or are staying in temporary shelters. They have no shelter of their own. At- At-risk of Homelessness refers to individuals and families experiencing difficulty in maintain housing, or are at imminent risk of eviction. This includes individuals paying too high of a proportion of their income towards housing. Chronically Homeless is a sub-population of ‘absolute homelessness’. The Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness defines chronic homeless as individuals who have been continuously homeless for over one year, or have had four episodes of homelessness during the past three years. It’s not about who is deserving or Mental health is a big obstacle undeserving of services. Everybody’s on a for the bulk of my clients. It often stays journey. How do we support people where undiagnosed because they won’t go see they are at, and how do we move them to the somebody, or if they do they don’t have next step if that’s where they choose to go? the money for the prescription they need. Who are the homeless in Grande Prairie? The 2008 City of Grande Prairie Homeless Count enumerated 620 people, with an additional 122 people self-identifying, as homeless. Using a point-in-time formula, 854 individuals are estimated to be homeless. Number of individuals self-identified as homeless (n= 122) Aboriginal Non-Aboriginal Unrecorded Ethnicity 61% 27% 13% Male Female Unrecorded Gender 75% 20% 5% 13-17 yrs. 18-24 yrs. 25-44 yrs. 45-64 yrs. 65 and older Unrecorded Age 13% 13% 32% 43% 0 0 Source: City of Grande Prairie, 2008 Homeless Count. Page 4 Experiencing Homelessness Reasons for Homelessness We want to deal with some of the emotional reasons that keep them in Homelessness is not about an imbalance in housing supply and poverty rather than demand. A variety of factors cause or contribute to an individual or releasing them from family to become homeless. Grande Prairie’s community agencies poverty. identified the following as some reasons for homelessness. Could you be homeless? Have you ever experienced: ...job loss? …low-income earnings? The stigma of ...family violence? homelessness needs to be removed. We haven’t ...onset of a long-term mental or physical illness or injury? walked in their shoes, we ...addiction? don’t know why or how ...trauma? they’ve gotten there. I don’t think anybody chooses ...eviction? to be homeless, ever. ...family or relationship breakdown? ...discharge from a hospital or other treatment centre? ...poverty? ...unsafe living conditions? …female lone-parent family? Any number of these factors could put you at risk for homelessness. The Local Context The primary purpose of this Report Card is to create a baseline to measure our Utilization of local community’s progress in ending homelessness. With the acceptance of a new approach and new mantra “We are no longer going to manage homelessness Addiction Treatment but end it” it is an appropriate time to get a community wide measure of where Services we are. We often believe that things are getting so much worse, or so much better, Number of without accurate and substantiated evidence. There are a few things that we do clients know; first, the number of individuals and families at risk of becoming home- (March lessness is increasing because the recession is causing more unemployment 2009—April but more insidious is the general “slow down” meaning there is no “over-time” 2009) and no “job bonuses” which is most dramatically illustrated by the 36% in- Detoxification crease in people utilizing the food hamper program. Second, the housing mar- 1569 Services ket has swung violently within 3 years from a severe shortage of all types of housing to an over supply of single family homes. Third, homelessness is blind Business and to political rhetoric and will continue to expand without a cohesive & consistent Industry 170 set of funded priorities from the three levels of government to ensure resources Clinic are directed over the long-term and not subject to election cycles. Residential 291 Local community agencies identified awareness around homelessness as one Treatment simple way to reduce homelessness. If knowledge is power, may the people of Gambling our community express their experiences, stories, and wisdom. 19 Program Page 5 Experiencing Homelessness What exactly is “affordable” these days? Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) defines “affordable housing” as residences costing less than 30% of before-tax household income. This includes associated costs such as: For renters: - rent - utility payments (electricity, fuel, water, municipal services) For homeowners: - mortgage payments (principle and interest) - utility payments - property taxes - condominium fees Core Need Income Threshold in Grande Prairie for 2009 The Core Need Income Threshold (C.N.I.T) is a nationally recognized measure used to measure the income required to pay for average market rent (based on statistics provided by The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation). Below these income levels, it is difficult for people to find acceptable housing without spending over 30% of their income on housing. Bachelor 1 Bedroom 2 Bedroom 3 Bedroom 4 Bedroom 5 Bedroom C.N.I.T for Grande $ 32, 000 $ 34,000 $ 42,500 $ 55,000 $ 58,000 $ 61,000 Prairie The average sale price of a newly completed dwelling in Grande Prairie for April 2009 was $346,644. Source: Government of Alberta, Housing and Urban Affairs Housing Bulletin Monthly Report April 2009 In Spring 2009, Grande Prairie was the only city in If you can afford a place, can you find one? Alberta to report a lower vacancy rate than of Spring Vacancy Rates for Apartment Structures (Spring 2009) 2008. Bachelor 1 Bedroom 2 Bedroom 3+ Bedroom However, Grande Prairie Suite currently holds the highest Vacancy Rate (%) 4.2 5.1 10.7 7.1 vacancy rate for Alberta, 8.5% Source: Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Rental Market Statistics Spring 2009 Page 6 Experiencing Homelessness The cost of rent Grande Prairie’s average rent in Spring 2009 was $914.00. Source: Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Rental Market Reports, Spring 2009. Source: Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Rental Market Reports, Highlights After paying rent, can you afford utilities and taxes? In 2007, Grande Prairie had the highest combined average annual property tax and utility charges in Alberta for a single detached house of $5,004. Grande Prairie ranked third among the 24 Canadian cities surveyed, with only Ottawa and Toronto reporting higher costs. While this data is from 2007, Grande Prairie has consistently (2004—2007) had the highest combined property taxes and utility charges in Alberta, and amongst the highest in Canada. This trend indicates that Grande Prairie will continue as one of the most expensive communities for utility charges and In 2007, of 24 Canadian cities surveyed, property taxes. Grande Prairie had the highest average Source: City of Edmonton Residential Property Taxes and Utility Charges Survey, 2007. monthly utility charges. Grande Prairie — Athabasca Region From April to July of 2009, the Athabasca-Grande Percentage (%) Prairie region had the highest rate of unemployment across Alberta. Source: Government of Alberta, Monthly Labour Force Statistics Page 7 Experiencing Homelessness Average incomes as compared to cost of rent April 2009 average cost of rent by type of apartment X = Non-Affordable (over 30% of monthly income) √ = Affordable (less than 30% of monthly income) Type of work/source Overall 30% of Bachelor 1 bedroom 2 bedroom 3+ bedroom of income (2009) average monthly annual income $699 $818 $969 $1,082 income *Income Support – $8,244 $206.10 Single person X X X X *Income Support – $16,092 $402.30 Couple two children X X X X A.I.S.H. recipient $14,256 $356.40 X X X X General office clerk $32,400 $810.00 √ X X X Cashier $24,970 $624.25 X X X X Automotive Service $56, 718 $1,417.95 Technician √ √ √ √ Heavy Duty $64,026 $1,600.65 √ √ √ √ Mechanic Custodian $37,125 $928.13 √ √ X X Drilling Rig Lease- $47,087 $1,177.18 hand/Floorhand √ √ √ √ Retail Sales Person $32,794 $819.85 √ √ X X Drilling and Service $114,963 $2,874.08 √ √ √ √ Rig Managers *Based on monthly core benefits for not expected to work clients, private housing. Source: Alberta Learning and Information Services: Wage Info for Athabasca-Grande Prairie Region, based on overall average salary (annually) Based on 2005 median after-tax incomes, a female lone-parent family made $33,289 a year, meaning only $832.23 per month can be spent on rent/mortgage payments and all utilities to remain affordable at 30% of monthly income. The median after-tax income for a male lone-parent family was $57,762, meaning $1,444.05 per month can be spent on rent/ mortgage payments and all utilities to remain affordable at 30% of monthly income. This is a difference between genders of $ 611.82 per month. Page 8 Experiencing Homelessness There has been a considerable increase in the number of people using food programs at the Salvation Army in 2009. A 36% increase in food hampers distributed. A 42% increase in the number of meals served in the soup kitchen. When people change and they go back to their environments that haven’t changed, they need the skills and supports to deal with that. They may not be successful in dealing with their stressors. They may end up relapsing and the cycle starts over. Page 9 Experiencing Homelessness Affordable housing/subsidized housing options for Grande Prairie The Grande Spirit Foundation, as a management body, provides housing for seniors and low- income individuals and families. The Grande Spirit Foundation also manages the affordable housing buildings owned by the City of Grande Prairie and the Grande Prairie Residential Society. The Grande Spirit Foundation also administers rental supplements to private landlords, and direct rental supplements to tenants. Number of Number of Households housing occupants on Waitlist units A total number of 1,237 households Senior’s Lodges 219 241 155 in Grande Prairie receive subsidized housing and rental supplements Senior’s 122 127 135 through the Grande Spirit Foundation, Apartments representing 2,295 people requiring Family Housing 70 216 517 1261 Direct Rental people assistance in paying rent. Rent Supplement 252 515 n/a (paid to landlord) Currently, another 947 households Rent Supplement 375 949 123 are on a waitlist. Direct to Tenant The current average income for a family on the waitlist for family housing owned by the Grande Spirit Foundation is $ 13,953.00 The Government of Alberta provides income support to low-income individuals and Alberta Works Income Support families. This table provides a brief overview of the core benefits available to Albertans. Core Essential Core Shelter Expected to work: People who are looking for Funding Per Month Funding Per Month work, working or unable to work in the short Includes food, clothing, Social Private term. telephone, household Housing Housing and personal needs, Not expected to work: People who have transportation. difficulty working due to chronic physical or Expected Not mental health problems. to Work Expected to Social Housing: Housing unit operated by Work local housing authority (i.e. Grande Spirit Single $260 $364 $120 $323 Foundation). Includes rent, damage deposit, Adult heating and utilities other than electricity. Electricity benefit paid is actual electricity Single $343 $460 $212 $546 costs. Adult, 1 Child Private Housing: Home-owners, renters, room and board situations. Includes rent or Couple, 3 $635 $814 $377 $605 mortgage, damage deposit, heating and Children utilities, lot taxes, condo fees, municipal taxes. Page 10 Experiencing Homelessness Our Shelters The Oasis provides a winter mat program, a mat, blanket and Last week we had one coffee , and is the only emergency housing where individuals can stay day where we had to turn away six people. Either overnight even if under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Last winter, people in shelter have to 192 individuals were kept out of the cold overnight. leave, or we turn away In the spring of 2010, The Oasis will be opening a 20 unit affordable people trying to access and assisted housing service based on the Housing First model. shelter. The Wapiti Community Dorm offers 59 emergency Odyssey House offers 40 beds to individuals who are homeless. emergency beds for women and - 39 beds for single men children leaving abusive relationships. - 5 beds for single women Homeless women and their families - 2 family rooms are accommodated as space allows. - 13 long-term beds for individuals with mental illness Odyssey House has identified the The new Rotary House, opening in the fall of 2009, need for second stage transitional will have the capacity to provide shelter and supports housing with supports for women and to 143 people. children leaving abusive relationships. - 43 men’s cots, and 28 men’s mats This will ensure families are not exiting - 23 women’s cots and 29 shared rooms (2 beds each) the emergency shelter into - 20 private rooms homelessness, unsafe community housing, or returning to a violent The Elder’s Caring Shelter serves individuals over relationship. the age of 55. Medical needs and meals are provided for residents as they work towards independence. The Youth Emergency Shelter provides emergency shelter from 9pm to 10am to a maximum of 10 youth a night on a first come, first serve basis. They also provides street outreach, positive choices programs, in-house drop-in programs and 24/7 crisis phone support. Rising Above provides supportive housing to 10 men and 6 women who are exiting homelessness. Employment assistance, addiction recovery and spirituality supports are provided to residents during their six month stay. Association- Canadian Mental Health Association-ANWR provides affordable and supported housing to low-income individuals with mental illness though 58 bachelor suites in Willow Place. CMHA-ANWR also manages Fraser House, providing low-income housing for up to 4 men. Residents of Fraser House can access supports through CMHA’s outreach worker and Willow Place. Page 11 Experiencing Homelessness What are the gaps? Local agencies identified the following gaps, where they saw their clients “fall through the cracks”. It is by filling these gaps that our community can better end homelessness. • Lack of programs for individuals with complex needs e.g. concurrent disorders. • Lack of coordinated data system for monitoring service provision to individuals and groups. • Lack of prevention based programs. With everything • Shortage of affordable housing. now a days, there’s • Lack of sober living options for people in recovery from addictions. way too much paper • No second stage shelter for women and children. work. It’s like signing your life away, just to • Lack of supported transitional housing for homeless or street-involved get some help. youth. • Absence of co-ordinated discharge planning e.g. hospital. • Lack of Housing First based housing-units. Many community groups would like to see a facility where homeless individuals or people at risk of homelessness could access all services with no contingencies, with only one intake process. This facility would ensure all basic needs were being met, including on-site housing and on-site support through strong case management. What are the challenges? Both support service providers and users identified the following as the greatest challenges they face: • Discrimination and stigmatization from the public towards homeless individuals. • Navigating “red tape” in order to access services or funding. • High staff turnover. • Challenges associated with rapid community growth. • A lack of adequate space in their building. • Keeping in contact with individuals who are homeless. • Receiving long-term stable funding. • Coordination of supports across many agencies for one individual due to F.O.I.P.P. • Maintaining awareness of all services provided within the community on an updated basis. What are the successes? Community agencies generally agreed that Grande Prairie is improving its efforts to address homelessness with noted success There needs to be a in the areas of: long-term commitment and involvement to supporting the homeless - we’re not • Improved coordination and partnerships among community sprinting. agencies. • Raising awareness and advocacy on housing and homelessness. • A strong dedicated and impassioned response to homelessness. • Building stronger relationships with clients by offering individually-tailored services. • Adoption of the Housing First approach to homelessness. Page 12 Experiencing Homelessness Dollars and sense when it comes to ending homelessness According to the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness, it is more cost effective to end homelessness than it is to manage homelessness. The Government of Alberta now has a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. The total savings of ending not managing homelessness by implementing the 10 year plan, based on today’s homeless population would be $3.334 billion dollars. These include direct costs related to homelessness, e.g. the emergency shelter system and services and programs, and indirect costs e.g. health care and the corrections system. Cost to Manage Cost to End Type of homelessness Average annual Total cost to Cost to provide Total cost to and number* per cost per person or manage housing and provide support group family homelessness services program over 10 years Chronically homeless $114,850/year $ 3.45 billion/ $34,000 $1.02 billion (3,000) Transient homeless $39,680/year $ 2.182 billion/ $14,000 $770 million (5,500) Employable homeless $21,600/year $ 324 million $6,000 $90 million (1,500) Homeless families $69,600/year $ 696 million $17,800 $178 million (1,000) *Numbers are based on the current 11,000 Albertans who are homeless. Source: Alberta Secretariat For Action on Homelessness, A Plan for Alberta, 2008. The Housing First approach to ending homelessness Housing First centers on quickly providing safe and stable Outcomes of a Housing First housing for an individual with supports as needed. Individuals approach to homelessness vary by are provided with services and supports to address the root each individual in the program, causes of homelessness. Housing is not contingent on however there have been participating in mandated services, but rather supports are demonstrated results in: put in place to assist the individual in maintaining housing - Better overall health (better eating including addiction treatment, mental health stabilization and habits, improved sleeping patterns). treatment, counselling, health care, planning for employment - Decreased levels of stress. and education, and life-skills such as budgeting and grocery - Higher level of personal shopping. security. Supports begin with street outreach workers assisting the - Improvement in mental health. individual in searching for and securing housing, assisting in - Decreased use of alcohol and the obtaining of damage deposit and first month rent and drugs. helping find rental subsidies. Once housing has been secured, - Decrease in panhandling. - Decrease use in emergency support workers provides services as decided by the services (hospitalizations, contact individuals. Once supports and services are in place, follow- with RCMP). up workers assist both the individuals and landlords to address any barriers and concerns in maintaining housing. (Source: Toronto Shelter, Support and Hous- ing Administration, Results of Streets to Homes Post-Occupancy Research, 2007). Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thank you to the community agencies and the homeless individuals for their time, thoughtful interviews and sharing of information to assist in developing this report card. With gratitude: - The United Way - The University of Calgary - H.I.F.I.S - The Salvation Army - H.I.V. North - Goodwill Industries - The Grande Spirit Foundation - Centerpoint Facilitation - Luonor Focus Point - The Wapiti Dorm - Alberta Health Services Addictions and Mental Health - The Oasis - Persons with Developmental Disabilities - The Community Village - Odyssey House - Rising Above - The Youth Emergency Shelter Society - R. Work Group - Alberta Works Grande Prairie - A.I.S.H. Grande Prairie - and especially to the homeless individuals who shared their stories. We want to save lives. Two of our home- less clients died last year. I think it could have been different had they had stable CONTACT INFORMATION housing. For media inquiries, more information on this report, or to receive a copy of this report, please contact: Canadian Mental Health Association—ANWR Hywel Williams, Executive Director 9713 100 Avenue, Grande Prairie, Alberta T8V 0T5 Grande Prairie & Region firstname.lastname@example.org (780) 814-5678 All information contained within this document is believed to be accurate at time of reporting. Canadian Mental Health Association –ANWR provides this information in good faith but gives no warranty nor accepts liability for any incorrect, incomplete, or misleading information.