KENTVILLE, N.S. — Although it will provide the infrastructure needed to support The Portal’s ongoing work addressing youth homelessness, the organization sees it as a gift to the community.
The Department of Community Services will be providing $1.1 million to The Portal Youth Outreach Association for three transitional houses in the Annapolis Valley.
The Portal community engagement and host home co-ordinator Amanda Haslett said the three transitional houses to be established as part of the Youth Transitional Housing Program will be located in Windsor, Kentville and Middleton.
Haslett said the houses would provide support to young people from these towns and outlying communities. The houses will be located in areas where other community supports for young people exist and can be more readily accessed.
“This is brand new for us, so we’re very excited,” Haslett said.
She said they are absolutely thrilled to receive the funding, as it will allow them to move ahead with a key component of The Portal’s Homeless No More Strategy, a 10-year plan to end homelessness in the Annapolis Valley.
She said the houses will provide support to young people who are homeless or who are at risk of homelessness, the first phase in helping them find stability and transition into a host home or a supported independent living apartment. The program will support 14 young people between the ages of 16 and 21.
Why transitional housing?
Haslett said the transitional homes will allow The Portal to address the need for emergency housing in a way they haven’t been able to before.
Young people have often had to be directed to the Open Arms Inn From the Cold shelter program or shelters in Yarmouth or Halifax.
Young people can stay in the safe transitional environment for three months to three years, depending on their level of need and their capacity to transition to permanent housing. The transitional houses will open this coming fall.
Each house will be home to four to six young people at a time, supported by partner agencies and a live-in house mentor. Onsite supervision, support and programming are part of the wrap-around services the young residents will receive.
Haslett said they would be reaching out to the community over the coming months to ask for help with renovations and furnishing the houses. The provincial funding doesn’t include money to purchase furniture, so community support will be integral to the success of this aspect of the project.
The Portal executive director Russ Sanche said having transitional houses represents a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to addressing youth homelessness.
“When you’re jumping from that crisis around emergency housing right into long-term, stable housing, there’s a whole lot that needs to fall into place,” Sanche said.
This is why young residents will be able to stay in a transitional house for an extended period, if needed, because it takes time to work through the challenges.
“This addresses the needs for the most vulnerable of those kids, who have been at times criminally exploited or sexually exploited or are completely feeling abandoned,” Sanche said.
He said transitional housing is exactly that, a way for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to transition into permanent, stable housing.
Sanche said it can be very challenging and stressful for a young person in a bad family situation or who has been couch surfing to immediately land in a supported housing situation like The Portal’s independent apartment program, for example.
He said this is often the case when a young person goes directly from a desperate situation into a host home as well. In contrast, a transitional housing program provides extra supports that aren’t necessarily readily available in a host home or independent apartment situation.
Getting back on track
Transitional housing programs involve engaging with young people to help them identify their goals, find ways to help them take greater responsibility for their lives and help them deal with their trauma.
Sanche said this added level of support could help young people get their education back on track or access mental health services, for example. It provides a better environment to assess other potential options that The Portal and its partner organizations could provide, whether it’s a host home or supported independent living in an apartment.
Sanche pointed out that transitional housing is more affordable than group homes, institutions or other options that exist — in limited supply — across Nova Scotia.
He said the types of supports individuals need depends largely on their age. For example, a supported independent living apartment might be a great option for a person about to turn 19, but perhaps not so much for a 16- or 17-year-old who needs more support and rebuilding or who could reconcile with their family.
The provincial government also announced on May 31 that the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia will receive $3.5 million to buy properties in the Halifax area that will provide housing for people with the highest need who may otherwise remain homeless.
The association’s executive director, Jim Graham, said that when you are experiencing homelessness, secure and supportive housing is the starting point for turning your life around.
“The pandemic has created additional challenges for already vulnerable homeless people, and this investment will make a profound difference in addressing the lack of supportive housing for people who are now unhoused in our community despite all available resources,” Graham said in a news release.
For more information on The Portal or to donate, visit www.portalyouth.ca or The Portal’s Facebook and Instagram pages. For more information on the Homeless No More strategy, visit www.homelessnomore.ca.
Charting a new course
A new report from the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission detailing Nova Scotia’s urgent need for improved affordable housing was submitted to Infrastructure and Housing Minister Geoff MacLellan on May 31.
Titled Charting a New Course for Affordable Housing in Nova Scotia, the 61-page report includes 17 recommendations and 60 meaningful actions for the provincial government to help meet Nova Scotia’s diverse housing needs.
The Portal community engagement and host home co-ordinator Amanda Haslett said the report represents an important next step in addressing the housing needs of people of all ages across the province.
The Portal executive director Russ Sanche said the level of engagement and consultation behind the report was great, including various focus groups.
He said in a May 31 interview that he hadn’t yet had time to fully digest the report, but what is needed in Nova Scotia is a cohesive, unified housing strategy where all stakeholder organizations in all regions are “singing from the same song sheet” and pulling together in the same direction.
Sanche said the report could be significant, especially if the commission has identified the link or relationship among income, the cost of housing and the available housing inventory.
“If there is enough housing, and you can afford it, then you can have permanent, stable housing,” Sanche said.
He said when we have all community-based organizations and all levels of government engaged in the subject, we stand a much better chance of making a long-term change and sticking with it.
Sanche, who has been working to help address housing challenges for a decade, said he’s never seen an environment that is as receptive, engaging and supportive of tackling the issues like the one that currently exists.
Original Article: https://www.saltwire.com/atlantic-canada/news/local/11-million-to-help-the-portal-provide-transitional-youth-houses-in-windsor-kentville-middleton-100597917/