Homelessness and Employment: A Canadian Perspective


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Presentation given by Bayla Kolk, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Income Security and Social Development, Canada at a FEANTSA Conference on "Multiple Barriers, Multiple Solutions: Inclusion into and through Employment for People who are homeless ", Zaragoza, Spain, 2007

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Homelessness and Employment: A Canadian Perspective

  1. 1. Homelessness and Employment: A Canadian Perspective Bayla Kolk, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister Human Resources and Social Development Canada Government of Canada October 19, 2007
  2. 2. Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) Goal of Canada’s HPS is to prevent and reduce homelessness and includes three initiatives:  Homelessness Partnership Initiative – addresses needs of designated, outreach and Aboriginal communities;  Surplus Federal Real Property for Homelessness Initiative – makes surplus federal property and land available to communities for projects to alleviate homelessness; and  Homelessness Accountability Network – strengthens program accountability, develops knowledge, and reinforces the importance of community networks and sharing of best practices. The HPS is predicated on:  Fostering partnerships to maximize outcomes  Housing-first approach  Community-based  Targeted and accountable investments 2
  3. 3. DiagnostiqueHomeless persons in Canada can be categorized in two broad categories:- Chronic homeless persons: This group faces multiple barriers and needs ongoing care and support to stay off the streets.- Situational homeless persons: Those who have faced serious economic downturns or family instability, but nonetheless have good prospects to overcome homelessness if given the proper supports. Employment programming can be effective when targeted at this section of the homeless population because in many instances lack of employment is the single barrier preventing them from escaping homelessness. 3
  4. 4. Barriers to Employment Faced by Homeless IndividualsHomeless people are often motivated to work and represent anuntapped source of labour but face multiple barriers preventing themfrom achieving employment and escaping homelessness:  Lack of a permanent and secure residence  Physical and/or mental health issues  Addiction issues  Criminal involvement  Lack of education and training  Lack of transportation  Irregular employment histories 4
  5. 5. Labour Market Mobility Canadians often migrate from one part of the country to the other in search of employment opportunities in booming economies -- similar to citizens across EU nations. In most of the booming regions, the cost of accommodation is proportional to economic growth, which makes it difficult for low-end job holders to meet ends including housing needs. This results in a class of “working homeless”. Immigrants tend to move to big cities to increase employment opportunities, but most end up with jobs that do not adequately compensate for their level of education and experience. They add to the at-risk homeless population. 5
  6. 6. Holistic Approach to Homelessness and Employment Research indicates that job training programs for homeless people should include comprehensive assessments, holistic interventions (access to health, social, educational programming) and ongoing case management in order to be successful. A holistic range of services and supports entails cooperation and coordination among social service agencies, employers, and governments at different levels. Given the marginal and unstable employment that characterizes employment for low-wage or homeless individuals, laws and regulations are important to prevent exploitation. 6
  7. 7. Best Practices in Canada Stella Burry Community Services in St. John’s, Newfoundland, is a social service agency utilizing integrated programming to provide education and employment services alongside counselling, supportive housing and affordable housing assistance. In Toronto, Ontario, Evas Phoenix works with business, labour and community partners to provide housing for 50 youth for up to a full year, as well as employment and pre-apprenticeship programs. Street Youth Job Action is an initiative that provides mentoring and development opportunities for homeless youth in Vancouver, British Columbia. The project gives youth an opportunity to learn a set of skills and behaviours to prepare them for the workforce. 7
  8. 8. Concluding Remarks Ending homelessness requires addressing multiple barriers and closing the gap between incomes and housing costs – jobs that pay a living wage are critical. HPS: working to fully integrate homelessness and employment into the overall thematic structure of the Strategy, as a policy imperative, so that meaningful employment can play an integral part in supporting people in their move out of homelessness and into self-sufficiency. FEANTSA’s focus on homelessness and employment is helpful to policy development in Canada. Lessons learned in addressing employment and homelessness in Europe and Canada contribute to a shared body of knowledge that will help strengthen responses. 8