Prevention is the best solution to homelessness. We must anticipate who is vulnerable and stop homelessness before it starts. Streetohome aims to invest in prevention projects that will make the biggest impact in helping people maintain housing.
In 2012, Streetohome was instrumental in launching the Vancouver Rent Bank, a project that provides a cost-effective solution to preventing homelessness caused by short-term financial reasons. For people living from cheque to cheque, an unexpected bill can lead to a forced choice between paying next month’s rent or the utility bill and buying groceries. Individuals and families can apply for a one-time loan to bridge the financial gap to prevent eviction and/or utility cut-off and remain stably housed. Loans are generally repaid within a 24 month period, and the experience of other rent banks in British Columbia shows an average of 70 percent of loans are paid back.
Launched in September 2012, the Rent Bank is a collaborative project with partners including, Network of Inner City Community Services Society (NICCSS), City of Vancouver, Vancouver Foundation, UBC Department of Economics, BC Hydro Power Smart, and Vancity. Streetohome funded the capital portion of the project, which was made possible by a generous $365,800 contribution from the Radcliffe Foundation.
Youth homelessness is a serious issue in Vancouver. Recognizing the need to prevent youth from entering into a life on the street, Streetohome continued to support the Covenant House Semi-Independent Housing program for homeless or at-risk youth. With capacity for up to 30 people at a time, the program ensures that youth with mental health and addictions issues are effectively supported, giving them the stability required to access existing housing in the community. Streetohome was able to support this valuable project because of generous donations of $250,000 from both Scotiabank and Bell Canada.
Streetohome continues to look for new ways to implement innovative and best practices in the homeless service sector. We committed $30,000 to RainCity Housing and Support Society, The Bloom Group (formally St. James Community Services Society), and MPA Society for a business case proposing the development of a Shared Services Organization to create organizational capacity, operational efficiencies, and improved service quality within each organization. It is anticipated that shared services will strengthen the individual organizations and ultimately result in improved services and associated outcomes for Vancouver’s most vulnerable citizens. The three partner agencies will determine next steps for this project in early 2013.