Homelessness is personal and no two people experience it the same. Significant life changes, a health crisis or loss of income could put any of us in a place where suddenly we don’t have a place to call home. Just as those circumstances are unique, so are the temporary and permanent solutions to help individuals get back on their feet.
We may think of shelters as the response to homelessness. Temporary shelters are often needed in a time of family crisis or major transition such as being released from a hospital. While emergency shelters are important, they are not solutions. They are short-term band-aids designed to get individuals or families into a safe space. Once safe and secure in a temporary location, emergency shelters work with people to help them plan next steps to finding a permanent home.
This is why Permanent Supportive Housing (which is the focus of the Home for Good Campaign) is so important. Unlike shelters which provide beds, Permanent Supportive Housing gives people a home. While emergency shelters are designed to help people transition onto other housing options, people living in Permanent Supportive Housing have a space to call their own. People living in Permanent Supportive Housing pay rent, come and go as they please, and have all the rights and responsibilities that come from being a tenant in Ontario.
In addition to providing a safe and private home (often in the form of a self-contained studio with a kitchenette), Permanent Supportive Housing also provides flexible and voluntary supports. These evidence-based services are often onsite, are flexible and affordable, and are designed to support the physical and emotional goals of people living with complex needs. A social service professional is on-site 24/7 and programming is delivered through intentional integration of the physical space and community in the building. These supports (which can include counselling, life skill development and medical care) allow residents to lead their lives as they choose, knowing that if they would like judgement-free help, it is close by.
Permanent Supportive Housing is community building at its best. It gives individuals who have struggled with finding a home a safe and welcoming place. With those basic human needs met, it allows residents the time, space and professional support they need to focus on their physical and mental health to be active and contributing members of our society.
About This Post
Diane Ballantyne is a Wellington County Councillor and a board member at United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin. She has long advocated for a community that is grounded in inclusivity and equity. This is the second of five posts exploring homelessness in Guelph/Wellington and the solutions that the Home for Good Campaign brings the community. Our thanks to the housing team at the County of Wellington for their insights.