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N.L. to see more housing units built, refurbished

Homelessness.
Homelessness. - file photo

Federal government’s new strategy will help homelessness in this province and across Canada, St. John’s East MP says

This province will see four times the number of new low-income housing units constructed and three times as many units refurbished over the next decade as a result of a new National Housing Strategy, Nick Whalen said.

"That's going to make a huge difference (in this province)," the St. John's East MP told The Telegram Thursday.

 

The strategy, announced Wednesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will see the federal government contribute $40 billion to help reduce homelessness and improve the availability and quality of housing for Canadians in need.

With 1.7 million Canadians in need of core housing, the strategy's goals — along with creating and upgrading existing units under federal programs from 2005 to 2015 — include reducing chronic homelessness by 50 per cent and removing more than 530,000 households from housing need.

Canada had been the only one of the G7 countries — with the seven largest advanced economies in the world — without a national housing strategy.

Canada's strategy will be geared towards meeting the needs of Canada's most vulnerable populations, including seniors, Indigenous Peoples, survivors of family violence, people with disabilities, refugees, veterans and those grappling with homelessness.

While details of how money will be spent in Newfoundland and Labrador have not yet been finalized, Whalen said government did consult with several local organizations, including the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Homeless Network, End Homelessness St. John's and the Community Sector Council.

"There will be individual, local components for provinces to ensure the money is spent the way the province needs it," Whalen said.

Homelessness is certainly an issue in his region, he said.

In a 2016 report, End Homelessness St. John's estimated about 800 people in the capital city experience homelessness in a year.

The group expressed concerned with episodic homelessness — people who, due to mental health problems, addictions or loss of income, have lost stable housing.

"(The problem) is surprisingly large," Whalen said.

"There are people who just simply don't have the right type of support systems."

He said the group now, "sees a light at the end of the tunnel."

In a news release, End Homelessness St. John's chairman Shawn Skinner said "November 22nd is a huge day for our movement and for ending homelessness in Canada."

Whalen said amongst young people about 1,000 children with homelessness and housing issues avail of the services of Thrive community youth network per year.

"It is a real issue," Whalen said. "This isn't a Toronto problem or Vancouver problem alone. It is a nation-wide problem …

"I appreciate this $40 billion won't end homelessness in Canada, but it's going to take a right spaced approach, it's going to create conditions for which we can benefit the most people. It's going to be tailored to the local need and its going to involve the provinces and the people on the ground delivering the services."

The strategy also commits to ensuring that at least 25 per cent of funds go to projects for women, girls and their families.

To ensure things are done property, Whalen said, government is spending about half a percent of the overall spending on research, data collection and innovation.

"It's to make sure what we're doing is an accurate approach," he said. "As we improve the situation for some people, we may find there's another bottleneck in the system and by continually monitoring how we're doing, it will help to continually improve how we're doing it." 

rosie.mullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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