SYDNEY — As far as Fred Deveaux is concerned, provincial money to help men trying to escape homelessness in Cape Breton will end up changing their lives.
“This funding will allow Cape Breton Community Housing to provide expanded residential support options for individuals who are exiting homelessness but who are not yet ready for living completely independently,” says the executive director of the Cape Breton Community Housing Association. “The supported housing will help bridge the gap that exists between absolute homelessness and full, independent living.
“It is a game-changer for the individuals who need it and will help to set them up for long-term success.”
The province announced Thursday it would be investing $553,000 to provide safe permanent homes and support services for men exiting homelessness in Sydney. The money will go to the Cape Breton Community Housing Association who will use it to provide supportive housing for six men at its Union Street property and keep providing support for eight more at its Margaret Street site.
Deveaux’s organization also runs the Sydney homeless shelter on Townsend Street that can house up to 14 men and 14 women at a time. But while the shelter provides somewhere to go when times are tough, it is not meant to be anyone’s permanent residence. When a person finds a permanent home, sometimes they don’t have the necessary skills to deal with being on their own and they may lose their home and end up back on the street again.
“What we were finding is that people coming to the shelter, we were finding housing for them and then for one reason or another, they weren’t able to maintain housing usually because of some underlying issues, whether it be mental health or addiction or an inability to budget properly or things of that nature and they were ending up back in the homeless shelter which we don’t want,” says Deveaux. “In other places, there are supportive housing options to help bridge that gap so that people can learn the skills they need to eventually have their own independent housing, without staff and support. So this is really meant to be permanent but it is also meant to be a bridge of sorts. People will eventually move on to independent housing at their own speed so every individual will look different — they’ll gain the skills they need in order to not return to homelessness and then be able to manage their own independent housing.”
Cape Breton Community Housing has two other buildings: one on Margaret Street and one on Union Street. Both will be repurposed as supportive housing. In addition to being safe housing, those living at either site will have access to clinical care, peer support, addiction services and mental health support. Those supports should make the transition over to permanent housing easier on the individual.
“It’s a gap that we’ve identified for some time and we’re aware that these services and supports exist elsewhere in the country and they have great success. And so we’re very pleased to get this funding and be able to assist more individuals with the goal of independent housing,” says Deveaux.
“We’re working to ensure people in our community who may be experiencing homelessness or are in temporary emergency shelters have the supports they need,” said Derek Mombourquette, education and early childhood development minister, on behalf of Kelly Regan, community services minister “Our goal is to provide more permanent, supportive housing for people across the province, including in Cape Breton Regional Municipality.”
In 2020-21, 515 people in the CBRM received housing support under the Integrated Action Plan to Address Homelessness.