November 22, 2023 – National Housing Day is held annually on November 22 to recognize the important work done by partners across Canada to improve access to housing.
For National Housing Day 2023, The District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board would like to emphasize the need for compassion toward those doing their best to survive, wherever they fall in the housing continuum.
The CMHC Housing Continuum depicts seven forms of housing progressing from homelessness to living in market housing. This continuum is by no means a linear path with graduation from one form into another. For people that are eligible for rent support and that are fortunate enough to be capable of living independently, community housing is an appropriate option for them. For others in need of more supports, community housing is often the option presented to them at a time when supportive housing capacity is limited and their only alternative was homelessness. When people are housed appropriately, they thrive. When appropriate housing is not available, it is a struggle just to survive.
People from all walks of life co-exist within all stages of the housing continuum, regardless of the cards they have been dealt. For those who have lived their entire lives comfortably in market housing with support networks and resources to their name, trauma or job loss might never result in a transition to homelessness. For those starting off with very little and with no safety net, small slips carry much more significant consequences. Appropriate housing options, including transitional and supported spaces, offer much-needed stability for those at higher risk of slipping through the cracks into homelessness.
Over the past few years, homelessness has become more visible throughout the District of Thunder Bay. And with winter fast approaching, many of us are particularly concerned about unhoused individuals who are sleeping rough.
Any statistical count related to homelessness in our district is, at this time, an approximation based on the data that is available to us and observations made by staff and community partners. Here is a snapshot of our system as of the end of September 2023:
- There are 1,315 applicants on TBDSSAB’s waitlist for a rent-geared-to-income unit in the District of Thunder Bay. Of that total, 31% identify as homeless, the other 69% identify as having somewhere to live.
- There are 54 people on the High Needs Homeless wait list, which prioritizes individuals who are currently unhoused. 31 people have transitioned off the HNH waitlist into housing so far in 2023.
- There are 905 individuals on the By Name list, which tracks those unique individuals accessing services across the homelessness prevention service system.
- TBDSSAB’s Transitional Outreach and Support Worker (TOSW) team has an active caseload of 191 people and has supported 469 people since 2022.
Based on our most recent count in the City that shows 28 people living in encampments, the local shelter system currently has enough spaces to offer shelter to those sleeping rough in Thunder Bay. Salvation Army and Urban Abbey are both funded to provide overflow beds. With the increase to Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) funding, TBDSSAB’s budget for 2023/24 includes almost $3 million towards Community Outreach and Support Services, an increase of $600,000 over 2022/23.
As service manager for both community housing and homelessness prevention, TBDSSAB is dedicated to increasing the availability of appropriate housing options, so people are more likely to stay housed. We want our community to thrive, not just survive.
Collaboration and partnerships are the only way to truly make a difference. We cannot solve homelessness on our own. Transitional and supportive housing requires Mental Health and Addictions service provider capacity to deliver the actual supports–TBDSSAB is unable to direct deliver those services and we rely on our valued Health-funded partners for help.
TBDSSAB is accepting Expressions of Interest for provision of homelessness outreach and support services. We hope to soon announce $9.3 million of capital projects funded via HPP. These investments will create more transitional housing spaces that will make a big impact in addressing the shortage of available appropriate housing options. Increasing transitional and supported housing capacity helps better house others and keep supports around the people who may need it most. We encourage all to see future builds of transitional housing as a welcomed solution to a very complex issue.
TBDSSAB is thrilled by the positive impact that transitional housing spaces will make in our community. However, this is a solution that will take time and a community response. In the meantime, people who need transitional housing are likely living independently or unhoused. Please, be kind to people in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.
It is difficult for us to see the people we serve treated as lesser-than for their circumstances. Unfortunately, the stigma that low-income and unhoused people face adds an additional barrier to their ability to become self-sufficient and live with dignity.
National Housing Day offers an opportunity to reflect on the housing system, and we encourage the public to consider the human element of living within that system. We hope you will join us in being compassionate toward those on a different path than you would choose for yourself. And most of all, we hope you will join us in treating your neighbours with empathy and respect.
TBDSSAB thanks the community for their support as we continue to advance our housing system.
Ken Boshcoff, Board Chair, TBDSSAB
Bill Bradica, CAO, TBDSSAB
Housing & Homelessness Impact Highlights 2023 (PDF)