Graham McMahon’s voice broke with emotion as he struggled to complete his presentation to Chilliwack city council last Tuesday.
He was reading from a letter penned by a client of the city’s new Housing Hub initiative.
The pilot program, made possible with $90,000 in seed money, helps find stable housing for people who might otherwise be living on the street. Or, like the letter’s author, join the hidden homeless – people who shift from couch to couch, their own self-worth eroded daily by the trades and compromises they make to remain warm and dry.
The young woman’s story is not unlike others we have heard. Adrift after aging out of ministry care, she became mired in a lifestyle that far too few are able to break free from.
She credits the Housing Hub model with saving her life – literally.
“I had wanted to die for over a decade,” read McMahon after taking a moment to collect himself.
The Housing Hub model is an innovative tool in the homelessness arsenal. Instead of a shelter, or transition home, it works on a more personal level. The programs matches those who are chronically homeless, or at a high risk of becoming homeless, with landlords in the city willing to help out.
Housed in small groups or individually, the clients receive ongoing support until their lives have stabilized. Housing Hub staff also work with the landlords to ensure problems are dealt with swiftly.
So far the program is helping 20 people, some of whom are now eager to help others.
But that success is in jeopardy if more long-term, stable money is not found. It is currently relying on year-to-year grants that could end at any time.
Meetings are planned with other levels of government, including Chilliwack MP Mark Strahl.
Hopefully they will see what a growing contingent of the community is seeing: That active and concerted support is more effective than hoping the situation will find its own solution.