Discussions about implementing a new housing benefit to support Canadians with low income are happening in the wake of the Canadian National Housing Strategy (Jordan Press, 2017, Federal government looks at creating new housing benefit for low-income renters, The Toronto Star). It’s been estimated that, for single people on social assistance, an increase in income of just $1,500 per year would drastically reduce the need for emergency shelter beds across the country (Ron Kneebone, 2016, Kneebone: The secrets to reducing homelessness, Calgary Herald).
Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness highlighted the positive impact a housing benefit would have to prevent and reduce homelessness in their 2016 report, Renewed Hope: Recommendations for a successful National Housing Strategy in Canada. For youth aged 16 to 24 experiencing homelessness, the core population Eva’s serves, access to increased income that this benefit would provide would be helpful to assist them in getting and keeping housing.
At the same moment, we have to stress that homelessness for youth looks different. Access to supports to achieve education goals, access to affordable housing and better access to employment opportunities are critical in successfully ending youth homelessness. For example, the Toronto’s Vital Signs Report 2016 states that Toronto is the second most expensive of 33 communities across Canada in which to buy a home, and the average cost of a home is $641,617.00 (Toronto Foundation, 2016). Couple that with high rates of youth unemployment and the barriers that homeless youth in particular face when they try to get a job, and the situation becomes dire (Sean Geobey, 2013, The Young and the Jobless: Youth Unemployment in Ontario, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives; Amanda Noble, 2012, It’s Everybody’s Business: Engaging the Private Sector in Solutions to Youth Homelessness, Raising the Roof).
Housing benefits alone can’t fix the deep systemic problems that cause youth homelessness and prevent young people from being safely housed. We still have to invest in caring, holistic “wraparound” support for all youth, starting with those who face the highest risks of homelessness, discrimination, and marginalization. We know that when these young people are prioritized, all youth benefit and our communities become better places for everyone.
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