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Providing housing support for Aboriginal people
Homeward Trust Edmonton is going one step further to reach its goal of ending homelessness.
The not-for-profit organization is seeking a not-for profit Aboriginal organization in Edmonton to collaborate on the development of an Aboriginal Housing First team and an Assertive Outreach Housing First team.
“This is an opportunity for an Aboriginal organization to improve access to housing for homeless Aboriginal community members,” said Susan McGee, executive director of Homeward Trust Edmonton.
The Assertive Outreach team arose from consultations with agencies and stakeholders over a long period of time. The outreach, when operational, will focus on individuals living on the street by being a direct link to safe and permanent housing.
“The community outreach will also function to locate those individuals that are not frequenting centres or services. This provides the most vulnerable people with an opportunity to take advantage of available amenities,” said McGee.
The outreach team will support the housing first team by coordinating data of population needs, which will lead to better understanding of how to serve the homeless population.
The Aboriginal Housing First team will interact with community agencies, provide follow up, support and work with referrals.
The need for an Aboriginal Housing First team is evident based on the numbers, said McGee.
“In Edmonton, 38 to 40 per cent of the homeless population is Aboriginal, which is quite disproportionate. This is also based on self-identifying as Inuit, Métis and First Nation, so this number could be higher,” she said.
This indicates a clear need to have an initiative which is culture sensitive to target this vulnerable group. These programs are client-focused and culturally-relevant by providing Elder support, Aboriginal specific support, referrals and community connections.
This involves working closely with shelters, YMCA and other organizations that work with people exposed to homelessness.
“There are other factors involved. It is important to have Aboriginal employees that can work with the impacts of trauma caused by residential school and the ability to cope,” said McGee.
On some occasions, this inability to cope with past abuses creates barriers that often remain unnoticed, so having an Aboriginal team that can assist individuals and families in coping, could contribute to acquiring housing and further supports.
The Housing First model has accommodated more than 1,300 people since April 2009, creating housing for Aboriginal people who are “sleeping rough.”
“These programs are substantial for the Aboriginal community. It is exciting to see Aboriginal-run programs providing the culturally-relevant supports for their own people,” said McGee.
The Assertive Outreach Housing First team and the Aboriginal Housing First team are initiatives that are aligned with the goal of ending homelessness according to the strategies identified in “A Plan for Alberta: Ending Homelessness in 10 Years” and “A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.”
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