The Housing Hub works.
It may take time, effort, funding, and buy-in from the whole community, but the Housing Hub model works.
That “proof of concept” was among the findings in the Chilliwack Housing Hub ‘Report to Council’ this week. In order to see it continue in any meaningful way in the new year, it’s going to take a source of long-term, sustainable funding and a some changes to staff structure.
Housing Hub co-ordinator Graham McMahon appeared before council Tuesday with a detailed account of what they’ve accomplished, and what it will take to continue to bring people off the streets of Chilliwack and house them — with supports.
The Housing Hub has been operating under the umbrella of Pacific Community Resources Society, in partnership with Xolhemet Society and Sto:lo Service Agency, using Housing First principles, and rent subsidies, and wrap-around supports, among other objectives.
To date, 20 people are safely housed, most of whom were either chronically homeless or at risk, and the potential exists for many more.
The hub facilitates two kinds of housing, independent rental units where the participant’s name is on the tenancy agreement with the landlord, and the other is congregate living where PCRS’s name is on the agreement. The tenants in congregate housing get a bedroom with a locking door and share common spaces.
Participants in both kinds of housing receive at least weekly home visits from Housing Hub staff to provide support and ensure the units are being cared for, which is a key point.
Referral to the housing hub by other agencies is the way some on the streets got involved, but some will self refer by contacting PCRS directly on Hocking.
“From July 2018 to March 2019, the Housing Hub pilot aims to house and support up to 30 people,” McMahon told council.
With Chilliwack logging the highest number of homeless people in the Fraser Valley per capita, after the last count at 221, community forces have been bringing everything they’ve got to tackle the exploding crisis of housing and homelessness.
The hub is another tool in the housing tool box locally, where more than 200 units of shelter or affordable housing are on the way, along with an expanded shelter system, and almost $3 million in waived development fees for affordable housing construction by City of Chilliwack.
“While the pilot is still ongoing, the Housing Hub Committee believes that proof of concept has been established,” McMahon stated.
That’s based on the number of people housed, plus those on the wait-list, as well as the landlords and property owners partnering with the Housing Hub, all of which demonstrates the Hub’s strong “potential as a key piece of the puzzle in significantly reducing homelessness in Chilliwack,” McMahon said.
Intakes are on hold however “due to high demand” and the fact that the Housing Hub is “nearing its case management limit.”
They are sitting on offers from property owners to house as many as 18 people, and existing building managers are also offering more units.
“However, the limitations of a pilot project have not enabled it to reach the full potential of the Housing Hub design; the project will need sustainable funding,” McMahon told council.
In order to fully support tenants and maintain the partnerships they have forged with landlords, they recommend implementing some changes, including more staff for tenant supports, shifting the co-ordinator position to a supervisory one, partnering with the ICM team and RainCity Housing, as well as creating a pool of volunteers.
It takes “a city” to house those experiencing homelessness, and keep them housed, McMahon noted, and thanked the community.
“Not all of the successes of the Housing Hub are direct partnerships with service providers. It has been the support of private business owners, buy-in from city council, willingness of neighbours to have program-related neighbours, and an openness from the citizens of Chilliwack to see programs like the Housing Hub succeed.”
At the end of the presentation, McMahon read a moving testimonial letter from a young Housing Hub participant, which included these sentiments in conclusion:
“My life has changed drastically since becoming a part of the Housing Hub,” writes the hub participant. “Since my time in joining this program, I have been immensely supported.”
She described the struggle of having spent years living on her own, after aging out of ministry care, and searching for the resources that would take her out of a life on the streets.
“The level of resilience that is required to remain sane throughout homelessness is unfathomable and honestly I have never seen someone to possess it. I certainly didn’t. I am barely giving credit to what is required of a person to support themselves in homelessness.
“Fortunately for myself, I remained somewhat persistent in trying to get my life ‘back on track.’ I knew the right people and somehow I wound up where I am today.”
“This is not the case for literally any other person I have ever met that has ever been considered chronically homeless. I am so lucky to be where I am today. I have a future. I had wanted to die for over a decade.
“Now, I am grateful for my life because of the opportunity the Housing Hub has given me.”