Bold New Housing Strategy Makes Transitional Housing Priority

Habitat Housing Hub Rendering

On September 5, 2019, a bold new housing strategy was announced at our Crew-Goetz build site. Halton Multicultural Council, Halton Women’s Place, Milton Transitional Housing, and Summit Housing & Outreach Programs joined forces with Habitat Halton-Mississauga to support our unique plan to combat the lack of transitional housing in the region.

Transitional housing is crucial to support the progress of persons and families going through shelter systems. It serves as the next step for many of those working through crisis, offering an affordable and supportive environment for a fresh start. Due to housing prices sky-rocketing over the years, it is becoming more and more difficult for people to find affordable housing. With nowhere else to turn, these persons and families are being forced to stay in the shelters for much longer, keeping these integral organizations at max capacity.

Habitat HM has a particularly long-standing relationship with Halton Women’s Place, who provides shelter and crisis services for physically, emotionally, financially, and sexually abused women and their children. In 2018, we joined forces to build a second-stage shelter for these women and children affected, allowing them to move away from the abuse of their past and into a secure future.

“We have beautiful shelters but you’re living with somebody else. In fact, in our Burlington shelter there are thirty people there at any given time and in our Milton shelter there’s twenty-two…What’s happening now is with the lack of affordable housing, women are forced to stay in the shelter longer, and so we’re turning women away. This [project] will give us an opportunity to move women out of the shelter and move other women into the shelter that are in crisis,” said Diane Beaulieu, Executive Director, Halton Women’s Place.

On April 16, 2014, Statistics Canada investigated the numbers surrounding shelters that support women (and their children) through violence. On this single day, 338 women and 201 accompanying children were turned away from shelters across Canada. More than half (56%) of these people were cited as being turned away due to the shelters being full.

With so many people being turned away from shelters every day, the need for transitional housing is of paramount importance. We need to support those in need within our community, but how do we do this effectively?

A Bold New Idea

Introducing the Habitat Housing Hub. Based on a simple concept, the Habitat Housing Hub aims to bring together social service program providers to break down the silos, allowing for partnerships that support a common goal: to provide strength and stability to our community through acceptable housing. The design of the proposed project is a multi-story hotel-like structure with each floor dedicated to a partner organization’s needs. This innovative concept allows integral players in the social services sphere to collaborate with Habitat HM while focusing on what they do best: providing shelter and resources to those in crisis. This collaboration also allows us to focus on our core mission, which is to create affordable housing so that everyone has a safe and decent place to live.

“As part of the strategic plan, Habitat Halton-Mississauga is moving to position itself as the community builder of choice within both the Halton and Peel regions…the housing leader, builder, creative innovator, and partner of choice among agencies who provide housing across the entire housing spectrum. Whereas traditionally Habitat focused on the right end of the housing continuum, providing a bridge from rental housing to affordable home ownership to families. Habitat Halton-Mississauga now supports the provision of affordable and appropriate housing along the entire continuum from homelessness to home ownership,” said John Gerrard, CEO, Habitat HM.

Further specs of the proposed build include a community hub space on the ground floor, creating opportunities for necessary services and social activities. This hub space will help limit feelings of isolation, while providing the tools necessary to keep residents on the path of success.

When you take a look at the statistics for in-home counselling services, a truly underwhelming amount of results are available. Most in-home counselling services are only available for short stays in the crisis shelters themselves. While organizations are doing the most that they can with the resources available, it is not enough to support these families for only a short period of time. Upon leaving the shelters, families no longer have immediate access to the support they need, requiring them to travel for it. Unfortunately, travel is a luxury that is not available to all.

The Support of Key Players

Back row (left to right): Pam Damoff, MP Oakville North-Burlington, John Gerrard, CEO Habitat HM, and Karina Gould, MP Burlington.  Front row (left to right): Kim Jenkinson, Halton Multicultural Council; Diane Beaulieu, Halton Women’s Place; Irene Zivko, Summit Housing & Outreach Programs, and Donna Danielli, Milton Transitional Housing.

Back row (left to right): Pam Damoff, MP Oakville North-Burlington, John Gerrard, CEO Habitat HM, and Karina Gould, MP Burlington.Front row (left to right): Kim Jenkinson, Halton Multicultural Council; Diane Beaulieu, Halton Women’s Place; Irene Zivko, Summit Housing & Outreach Programs, and Donna Danielli, Milton Transitional Housing.

Burlington MP Karina Gould and Oakville North-Burlington MP Pam Damoff came by our Crew-Goetz build site to show their support for the new project.

“My hope would be that everyone else looks at this as an example of how to do things. We did a study at Status of Women about the need for transitional housing because it’s a huge gap across the country. And this will be an example that other people can look to and it would be amazing if you [Habitat HM] served as the way to do things going forward,” said MP Oakville North-Burlington Pam Damoff.

As members of the Liberal Party, both MPs both work to support Justin Trudeau’s Plan for Affordable Housing. According to the Liberal Party of Canada, this plan will prioritize significant new investment in affordable housing and seniors facilities, as part of their new ten-year investment of almost $20 billion in social infrastructure.

In November of 2017, the Federal Government announced plans for the National Housing Co-investment Fund, the first of its kind in Canada. This Federal strategy commits to a 10-year plan providing housing developers across Canada with $4.5 billion in subsidies, $8.6 billion in loans, and an additional $200 million worth of lands to build affordable housing.

The National Housing Co-investment Fund directly impacts Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga as the Housing Construction Stream dictates how community housing providers (not for profit or otherwise) can build homes. In part of this new housing strategy, partnerships have become a central component of community housing projects. The Federal Government has said that “partnerships maximize investments, ensure coordination of efforts and remove barriers to the development process.” Partners are also now required to contribute to these projects, through monetary contribution or in-kind.

To ensure a coordination of investments, these affordable housing projects must also have support from an additional level of government, such as municipalities, Provinces/Territories, and the Indigenous Government. It should be noted, however; this support is not required to be financial in nature, it could be in the form of a letter of support for the project.

These new government investments will help the Greater Toronto Area, including Mississauga, Oakville, and Burlington, become more affordable and habitable for generations to come. Habitat HM recognizes the National Housing Co-investment fund as the way forward in supplying safe and affordable housing to those in need throughout our community. As a result, we have made updates to our model, made evident in the Habitat Housing Hub. Working with partners in the social services sphere allows each side to concentrate on what they are best at, ensuring the success of not only Habitat’s builds, but also the integration of families into their new transitional homes.

“It’s really important because we don’t have a lot of transitional housing in Burlington…so this is really exciting that we’re going to have housing. It’s going to stay affordable to make sure that we have spots for everybody in our community. So, I am super excited, super proud of this, glad that the Federal Government can support this initiative and I think that it really speaks to the innovation, the creativity, and the vision that different community partners have here in Burlington,” Burlington MP Karina Gould said.

A big thank you to our supportive partners for joining us to help push awareness with the hopes of making the Habitat Housing Hub project a reality. Together, we will continue to support a world where everyone has a place to call home.

Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga is a proud member of our national organization Habitat Canada and is one of 54 local Habitat affiliates across our country. Habitat for Humanity brings communities together to help families build strength, stability, and independence through affordable home ownership. We provide a solid foundation for better, healthier lives in Canada and around the world. You can find out more about Habitat Canada at habitat.ca.

By: Rebecca Mitchell