More than 10 years and $18 million later the St. John’s Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness (CAB) has no intentions of slowing down until everyone has a place to live.
Formed in 2001, the CAB is a 25-member committee made up of 13 community and nine government organizations with a mandate to develop and implement a series of community plans to address homelessness in St. John’s.
Once it reached its 10-year mark it decided to have a consultant review its accomplishments over the past decade. That report was prepared by Bea Courtney, of Goss Gilroy Consultants and presented Thursday following the seniors housing forum at city hall in St. John’s.
“We have made significant progress in an effort to address homelessness despite the ever- growing challenges that are going to be with us for the forseeable future,” said Bruce Pearce, the community development worker for the committee.
“We want people to see what has worked and I think we’ve offered some solutions over the last decade. The report can also be used as an invitation to new partners in all sectors to help us finish the job because I think at the end of the day we’re convinced we can end homelessness because it’s not a problem that always needs to be with us,” he said.
During her presentation, Courtney said when the committee first formed there was very little infrastructure in place, programs were lacking and there was very little support for young people. She said if a teenaged boy needed emergency shelter back then he was sent to the Wiseman Centre, a shelter for men.
She said her study found the committee has since filled in the gaps by making a significant increase in infrastructure and programs and services.
Courtney said that was all made possible with $18 million of federal money invested through policy initiatives over 10 years. She said that then leveraged other money from the province and municipalities and in kind resources.
According to the report, there were 63 projects funded which included newly constructed or revitalized existing shelters, as well as a number of transitional and supportive housing projects developed and outreach services put in place.
“The CAB is recognized as a leader in the country. It has brought a profile to homelessness,” Courtney said.
But she said at the end of the day what really matters is people have been helped.
“The individuals that we talked to spoke to personal compelling stories about on how they gained self-sufficiency and they have more stable lives. Everything from people who are off the street now in a supportive housing environment where they may live for the rest of their lives to others who moved out of abusive situations and moved into having a career and are very much self-sufficient as single moms. There’s a whole spectrum of people who have been helped by CAB,” said Courtney.
Pearce said part of the work of the committee is to address the underlying factors that are driving people into homelessness such as job loss, family breakdown, escaping from violence and youth trying to find their place, and all those people affected have a role to play.
“I hope the message this report conveys is one of hope, that we’ve done some good work in St. John’s, but that it’s also a call to partners and the community to join us in being part of the solution,” he said.