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Metro Non-Profit Housing program faces funding cuts and layoffs

by Robert Devet

Metro Non-Profit Housing builds community for the people it supports in many ways, including day trips to go fishing and get away from the city. One of its programs now faces severe funding cuts and layoffs are likely. Photo Rana Encol
Metro Non-Profit Housing builds community for the people it supports in many ways, including day trips to go fishing and get away from the city. One of its programs now faces severe funding cuts and layoffs are likely. Photo Rana Encol

(KJIPUKTUK), HALIFAX - Funding cuts to an organization that supports people at risk of becoming homeless are expected to trigger staff layoffs and greatly reduce the reach and scope of the program.

The program, run by Metro Non-Profit Housing, supports people in Halifax and Dartmouth who are at risk of getting evicted and could well return to a life of homelessness.

Federal funding for Halifax Housing Help will be severely reduced this year, Carol Charlebois, executive director of Metro Non-Profit Housing, tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

And it looks like new provincial funding, offered through the Department of Community Services and intended to soften the blow, will not nearly be enough to fill the gap, Charlebois says.

But all that may change, since discussions with both levels of government are ongoing, she cautions.

Holding on to an apartment can be a challenge for once-homeless persons. They often cycle though the shelter system, find a place to live, but are then evicted and are back on the streets.

Things like living in an apartment, keeping it reasonably clean, and paying the bills on time require a very different set of skills than those necessary to cope with homelessness.

And if the streets is where you've spent your life than those skills don't come naturally.

This is where the staff of Halifax Housing Helps comes in.

Or used to come in.

One position, that of a housing support worker, will almost certainly be lost as a result of the funding reductions, says Adam Craft, housing support coordinator for Metro Non-Profit Housing.

“That person is mostly there to assist the most vulnerable people, those who need the most support,” Craft says. “We're talking about people with mental health issues, cognitive disabilities and things like that.”

She negotiates with landlords and does other advocacy work, addressing health needs, and so on. Anything really that will allow the individual to find a home and keep it, Craft says.

The trusteeship component of the program may be salvageable, but will likely support fewer people.

Halifax Housing Helps staff act as trustees on behalf of the clients, ensuring that rent and power bills are paid on time. At this time over 300 people are supported through the trusteeship program.

It looks like the two trustee positions will continue for the time being. But a supporting coordinator position is also in jeopardy because of the funding cuts.

“We'd have a much smaller program,” says Charlebois.

To Craft none of it makes any sense at all.

“There is a real cost (to the taxpayer) for each person that is homeless. There would already be a cost benefit if we were to prevent homelessness for just five people out of the 320 we support,” says Craft.

“And what's more, they're not just numbers to us. These are all unique individuals who deserve the dignity of having housing.”

See also: Shining Light Choir and friends go fishing

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